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Nissan's plug-free electric car

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  • Nissan's plug-free electric car

    The Japanese carmaker's wireless system employs the same electromagnetic field technology used to charge an electric toothbrush

    Bibi van der Zee and Adam Vaughan
    Monday 20 July 2009

    Nissan has developed a revolutionary plug-free technology that it claims will make charging electric cars easier and faster. The wireless charging system is based on the concept of inductive charging, the same electromagnetic field technology used to charge an electric toothbrush. Nissan has scaled it up for use in their Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) electric car, which can charge in a compatible parking bay without the need for wires. Today's electric car owners, by contrast, have to carry a mains plug aboard to recharge.

    David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, said: "If you look at handheld gadgets, inductive charging is a proven technology - the fundamental science says that it will work. I suspect you'll end up plugging electric cars in at night for efficiency, and by day using inductive for on-the-go recharging."

    Nissan has ambitions beyond mere wireless charging bays. It hopes to scale the technology up even further as a series of plates laid into the surface of designated electric vehicle lanes on our roads and motorways, theoretically enabling motorists to charge as they drive. However, Nissan admits that it still has no idea on how much it would cost, how long the designated lane would have to be, or how fast the battery could be recharged.

    Bott said he was sceptical that such charging lanes would be practical: "It's scientifically feasible, but it's whether it's scalable and feasible is another matter."

    Nissan is grappling with its recent consumer research, which revealed that 61% of potential electric car customers were most worried about the inconvenience of recharging. As well as inductive charging, its technological solutions include developing fast-charging facilities, which they hope to see in place in shopping car parks and motorway service stations. "So while you're shopping, or having a cup of tea, the battery will refill to 80% of its capacity, in about 25 minutes," explained Larry Haddad, general manager of product strategy and planning at Nissan Europe.

    In addition to these charging innovations, Nissan believes the ZEV has what it takes to compete against established electric models such as the TH!NK City and G-Wiz. Nissan claims it will be the first "dedicated" electric car on the market, arguing that most rival cars have been rehashes of existing models.

    The ZEV is a five-seater family-sized car with a top speed of 90mph, a battery range of around 100 miles and surprisingly impressive acceleration. Redmer van der Meer, Nissan's European electric vehicle product manager, said that he is confident the range will be significantly extended in the next few years, and that cars will be built so new, improved batteries can be retro-fitted. Van der Meer said the car is deliberately conventional in style: "We don't want to make a shock in the market, an egg-shaped car or something. We want to make a transition. You could do mad things but we really don't want to."

    Nissan's electric car is set to go on sale in the US and Japan next year, before arriving in the UK and rest of Europe by 2012. Pricing is yet to be announced.
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  • #2
    Re: Nissan's plug-free electric car

    Scientists Say Wireless Electricity Chargers Only "One Year Away"

    24 July, 2009, by Desire Athow

    The concept of Wireless Electricity or WiTricity is likely to become mainstream within the next few years according to a US based company that is currently building wireless electricity systems that could eventually replace existing solutions.

    Eric Giler, chief executive of Witricity, presented working models of mobile phones and televisions being charged wirelessly at t6he TED Global conference which is currently being held in Oxford.

    Giler also claims that the technology developed by Witricity, which is based on the work of physicist Marin Soljacic from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), could replace power cables and around 40 billion disposable batteries.

    Witricity uses the "resonance of low frequency electromagnetic waves", which according to our uneducated guess, would make it something similar to electromagnetic induction.

    Professor Soljacic, one of the inventors of the system, told the BBC News that the system is as safe as it can get. It remains to be seen whether for example it could affect pacemakers and other similar devices.

    Furthermore, because of its wireless nature, it would be interesting to find out the company would make sure that only allowed devices may connect to a particular wireless electricity point.

    Such a technology, would be significantly disruptive, and would pose a very potent threat to the battery makers like Sanyo or Varta, making them obsolete overnight.
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    • #3
      Re: Nissan's plug-free electric car

      Wireless power system shown off

      By Jonathan Fildes
      Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford
      Thursday, 23 July 2009

      A system that can deliver power to devices without the need for wires has been shown off at a hi-tech conference.

      The technique exploits simple physics and can be used to charge a range of electronic devices over many metres.

      Eric Giler, chief executive of US firm Witricity, showed mobile phones and televisions charging wirelessly at the TED Global conference in Oxford.

      He said the system could replace the miles of expensive power cables and billions of disposable batteries.

      "There is something like 40 billion disposable batteries built every year for power that, generally speaking, is used within a few inches or feet of where there is very inexpensive power," he said.

      Trillions of dollars, he said, had also been invested building an infrastructure of wires "to get power from where it is created to where it is used."

      "We love this stuff [electricity] so much," he said.

      Mr Giler showed off a Google G1 phone and an Apple iPhone that could be charged using the system.

      Witricity, he said, had managed to pack all the necessary components into the body of the G1 phone, but Apple had made that process slightly harder.

      "They don't make it easy at Apple to get inside their phones so we put a little sleeve on the back," he said.

      He also showed off a commercially available television using the system.

      "Imagine you get one of these things and you want to hang it on the wall," he said. "Think about it, you don't want those ugly cords hanging down."

      Good vibrations

      The system is based on work by physicist Marin Soljacic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

      It exploits "resonance", whereby energy transfer is markedly more efficient when a certain frequency is applied.

      When two objects have the same resonant frequency, they exchange energy strongly without having an effect on other, surrounding objects.

      For example, it is resonance that can cause a wine glass to explode when a singer hits exactly the right tone.

      But instead of using acoustic resonance, Witricity's approach exploits the resonance of low frequency electromagnetic waves.

      1. Magnetic coil (Antenna A) is housed in a box and can be set in wall or ceiling.
      2. Antenna A, powered by mains, resonates at a specific frequency.
      3. Electromagnetic waves transmitted through the air.
      4. Second magnetic coil (Antenna B) fitted in laptop/TV etc resonates at same frequency as first coil and absorbs energy.
      5. Energy charges the device.

      The system uses two coils - one plugged into the mains and the other embedded or attached to the gadget.

      Each coil is carefully engineered with the same resonant frequency. When the main coil is connected to an electricity supply, the magnetic field it produces is resonant with that of with the second coil, allowing "tails" of energy to flow between them.

      As each "cycle" of energy arrives at the second coil, a voltage begins to build up that can be used to charge the gadget.

      Mr Giler said the main coil could be embedded in the "ceiling, in the floor, or underneath your desktop".

      Devices using the system would automatically begin to charge as soon as they were within range, he said.

      "You'd never have to worry about plugging these things in again."

      Safety concerns

      Mr Giler was keen to stress the safety of the equipment during the demonstration.

      "There's nothing going on - I'm OK," he said walking around a television running on wireless power.

      The system is able to operate safely because the energy is largely transferred through magnetic fields.

      "Humans and the vast majority of objects around us are non-magnetic in nature," Professor Soljacic, one of the inventors of the system, told BBC News during a visit to Witricity earlier this year.

      It is able to do this by exploiting an effect that occurs in a region known as the "far field", the region seen at a distance of more than one wavelength from the device.

      In this field, a transmitter would emit mixture of magnetic and potentially dangerous electric fields.

      But, crucially, at a distance of less than one wavelength - the "near field" - it is almost entirely magnetic.

      Hence, Witricity uses low frequency electromagnetic waves, whose waves are about 30m (100ft) long. Shorter wavelengths would not work.

      'Ridiculous technology'

      Witricity is not the first jump on the concept of wireless electricity.

      For example, the nineteenth century American inventor Thomas Edison and physicist and engineer Nikola Tesla explored the concept.

      "In the very early days of electricity before the electric grid was deployed [they] were very interested in developing a scheme to transmit electricity wirelessly over long distances," explained Professor Soljacic.

      "They couldn't imagine dragging this vast infrastructure of metallic wires across every continent."

      Tesla even went so far as to build a 29m-high aerial known as Wardenclyffe Tower in New York.

      "It ran into some financial troubles and that work was never completed," said Professor Soljacic.

      Today, chip-giant Intel has seized on a similar idea to Witricity's, whilst other companies work on highly directional mechanisms of energy transfer, such as lasers.

      However, unlike Witricity's work, lasers require an uninterrupted line of sight, and are therefore not good for powering objects around the home.

      In contrast, Mr Giler said Witricity's approach could be used for a range of applications from laptops and phones to implanted medical devices and electric cars.

      "Imagine driving in the garage and the car charges itself," he said.
      He even said he had had interest from a company who proposed to use the system for an "electrically-heated dog bowl".

      "You go from the sublime to the ridiculous," he said.

      Ted Global is a conference dedicated to "ideas worth spreading". It runs from the 21 to 24 July in Oxford, UK.
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