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Google Transportation AI Power Wireless Networking

Google Working On Wireless Charging For Self-Driving Cars (inhabitat.com) 60

MikeChino writes: New FCC filings suggest that Google is currently installing wireless charging systems for self-driving cars at its headquarters in Mountain View. The documents suggest that the systems will be installed by Hevo Power and Momentum Dynamics. Both companies offer technology that can wirelessly charge an electric car via plates that are embedded in the ground.
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Google Working On Wireless Charging For Self-Driving Cars

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @03:12AM (#51467513)

    Wireless charging is wildly inefficient, in no way is it a better idea to do this than using a plug especially for something as hungry as a car.

    • You may well be right - but I think the idea is to be able to charge while you drive. Even if it is wildly inefficient and almost certainly can't give you continuous driving (at least no time soon) - it could likely extend the range of an electric vehicle by a good 30% or so, which many people would value. The cost of the infrastructure will be high but since it's value is spread over so many beneficiaries it's cost-per-user is actually quite low.

      • by donaldm ( 919619 )

        Wireless charging is wildly inefficient, in no way is it a better idea to do this than using a plug especially for something as hungry as a car.

        You may well be right - but I think the idea is to be able to charge while you drive. Even if it is wildly inefficient and almost certainly can't give you continuous driving (at least no time soon) - it could likely extend the range of an electric vehicle by a good 30% or so, which many people would value. The cost of the infrastructure will be high but since it's value is spread over so many beneficiaries it's cost-per-user is actually quite low.

        A simple way to provide charging is to have a ground plate that would spring up and mate with an identical plate in the car therefore providing energy transfer very much like a standard transformer with a small air gap. It would be more efficient to have a charging plug which would remove the need to extra locating circuitry for the plates not to mention the losses associated with a loosely coupled transformer. Not to be a spoilsport but energy stored plus energy lost still has to be paid for by the consume

      • People want electric cars in order to conserve energy, not for themselves but for the environment. So having a very inefficient charger defeats that purpose.

        • I think its both. I want an electric car because electricity is a shitload cheaper than petrol or diesel here. The enviromental benefits are a bonus though. By that reasoning nobody would buy electric cars when their grid is fossil fuel powered. It reduces the benefit it does not negate it.

          • I think its both. I want an electric car because electricity is a shitload cheaper than petrol or diesel here.

            Only because there is massive tax on petrol and diesel (in the UK anyway) and not on electricity. As long as only a few people adopt electric cars the government will be content to posture as the Godfather of Green-ness, and even give subsidies for it, but if/when most cars are electric do we really believe that the government will tolerate the loss of all that tax revenue? Good luck with that.

            By that reasoning nobody would buy electric cars when their grid is fossil fuel powered. It reduces the benefit it does not negate it.

            You are under-estimating the power of marketing. I once tried in vain to explain to a chatty guy on a train that

            • For fossil fuels though thats far from the only factor. Big generators will always be cheaper per joule there because they have access to a wider range of fuels (when oil is expensive crank up the gas generators) and much better economies of scale. Coal by the ton costs a lot less than coal by the kilo.

        • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @05:55AM (#51467803) Homepage Journal

          At the scale they're doing induction charging, it's actually quite efficient. Part of it is that you don't need a separate transformer to get the voltage to the right level for the car. You're only loosing a percent or so for the systems they're examining.

        • by bentcd ( 690786 )

          People want electric cars in order to conserve energy, not for themselves but for the environment. So having a very inefficient charger defeats that purpose.

          People are very different. I bought an electric car because it doesn't shake, rattle or stink, it's silent, and when I hit the accelerator it actually accelerates.

          If it's also environmentally friendly, then I'll take that. Nice bonus. It's not my primary motivator however.

      • by necro81 ( 917438 )

        You may well be right - but I think the idea is to be able to charge while you drive. Even if it is wildly inefficient and almost certainly can't give you continuous driving (at least no time soon) - it could likely extend the range of an electric vehicle by a good 30% or so, which many people would value. The cost of the infrastructure will be high but since it's value is spread over so many beneficiaries it's cost-per-user is actually quite low.

        "Wildly inefficient" is the key thing. Stationary charging

        • On the other hand it could help keep the roads clear of snow :p

          • by necro81 ( 917438 )
            I am guessing you are making a joke. However, if keeping the roads clear of snow were a major priority in road construction, then I would advocate using waste steam from the electrical plants that are used to produce the electricity for the (plugged in) vehicles. This energy is usually wasted through a cooling tower. However, it is still useful as process heat for various purposes, like snow melting, and making some use of it increases the overall (chemical or nuclear potential energy input to electrical
      • That's not what this article is talking about. These are fixed charging stations at Google's headquarters. Here's one of the companies [hevopower.com] they're working with. As they describe on their website, it's something where you drive up to the charger, stop your car, use your phone to monitor the progress of charging, etc.

    • by lhowaf ( 3348065 )
      I think the Tesla "snake" charger [livescience.com] is a lot closer to the ideal. Even if it is a bit overwrought, it still must be cheaper than repaving road surface for every installation.
  • Back when the Disneyland Roger Rabbit area of Fantasy land was brand new there were little charging pads to charge up the bus people could ride from one side to the other of the area. At the places the bus would stop charging coils were installed in the ground. This didn't last long at all. It's nice to see Google reviving the fantasy.

    {^_-}

    • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @04:27AM (#51467657)

      So you're example of a past attempt is from circa 1989 ? You do realize that practically every piece of technology in the tool-chain up to and including the batteries (and their charge times) have gotten orders better in the decades since then ? That's like saying "New horizons was an impossible mission because when we launched Apollo 11 it could barely make it to the moon and back".

      • practically every piece of technology in the tool-chain up to and including the batteries (and their charge times) have gotten orders better in the decades since then

        The laws of physics have not gotten better though. Charging across a significant air gap remains an inefficient part of the chain, no matter how much you improve the bits either side.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Buses in Milton Keynes (England), have been using this for two years.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25621426

    • FTFA :-

      the bus parks over plates buried in the road. The driver then lowers receiver plates on the bottom of the bus to within 4cm of the road surface and the bus is charged

      So it is not on the move, and the bus lowers plates. Might as well lower contacts - much cheaper and more efficient.

      • The plate is used to provide a large area for induction because the charging is done while passengers are getting on and off the bus. Using contacts would be cheaper and more efficient but would require the driver to be very precise in their placement of the bus if they were to be automatically deployed or have live connections open at street level. You lose some efficiency by using induction but gain in usability.

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      Something hasn't been invented until someone in america re-invents it and pretends its an original and unique idea worthy of a patent at the not-at-all-partisan US Patent Office.

  • by quenda ( 644621 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @03:30AM (#51467559)

    Why link to that useless tease at inhabitat?

    Here is TFA: http://spectrum.ieee.org/cars-... [ieee.org]

    Though it still does not explain why induction might be better than using a conventional dock, especially for an automated car.

    • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @03:54AM (#51467605) Homepage Journal

      Though it still does not explain why induction might be better than using a conventional dock, especially for an automated car.

      Okay, have you seen tesla's automated charge connector? It's like something out of a bad horror movie.

      Still, a list in no particular order:
      More resistant against vandals
      doesn't take up real estate with a charging station
      No need for a person to hook up the charger(or a horror movie snake-thing)
      faster connection
      no need to play with adapters
      no cables to trip over
      ability to embed charger at stop lights, bus stops(for electric buses), taxi stops(for taxis), and such for a 'quick top-off'. Might not matter for a Tesla type car, but for a electric bus? Might be the difference between getting through en entire day and having to swap out the batteries for a bus or taxi.

      • by donaldm ( 919619 )

        Wireless charging can be done via two means.

        The first being by induction charging [wikipedia.org].

        The second being by beamed radiation which could be ultrasonic or microwave or even Laser. See the following [wikipedia.org].

        In principle wireless charging sounds good however there are normally huge losses associate with this and since we live in a society of "user pays" I don't think that many people would like to pay for energy losses. Fine for a mobile phone wireless charger since the losses are relatively small but for a car or bus

        • Yes, there's a few ways to do wireless charging. Given that in this context we're talking about inductive charging and that's what I was talking about(even though I didn't specify it) I'm not sure why you're bringing up the other ways.

          When you're making a charge array as large as that for a wireless car, it's actually quite efficient over the relatively few inches from the charger to the car's receiver. So the losses aren't 'huge'.

          Now, you're actually right about the additional batteries - when I last rea

      • ........ why induction might be better than using a conventional dock, especially for an automated car.

        More resistant against vandals.

        A plug-in point on a post does not seem particularly vandal prone. Avoid putting them in vandal-prone areas - cars are generally more mobile than vandals.

        doesn't take up real estate with a charging station

        Except for the credit card reader, unless everything is going to be free in La-La Land. Anyway, people (and entrepreneurs) will still want the adjacent shop to buy their booze and fags when they top up, so a few charging pillars wont make much difference.

        No need for a person to hook up the charger.
        faster connection
        no need to play with adapters
        no cables to trip over

        A hard connection could be automated with a connector descending from the car to sockets on the grou

        • Except for the credit card reader, unless everything is going to be free in La-La Land.

          Well, outside of La-La land they can just use wireless billing or subscription services, you know?

          Anyway, people (and entrepreneurs) will still want the adjacent shop to buy their booze and fags when they top up, so a few charging pillars wont make much difference.

          Note how I said buses and taxis. Not vehicles that can be EVs spend that much time in parking lots. Also, on road charging.

          Though as batteries keep getting cheaper such ideas become financially less feasible compared to just adding more batteries.

          although as I said even a hard connection could be automated.

          As I mentioned as well, remember Tesla's automated charger?

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            Actually, they don't need any kind of payment system built in to the charger. The charger just asks the car for its VIN number, the back end checks that it has an account and tells the charger to turn on. When the charger is finished it reports back how much energy it dispensed and the back end bills the user.

      • Might be the difference between getting through en entire day and having to swap out the batteries for a bus or taxi.

        But with an automated bus/taxi fleet (or even a manned one), the vehicle that's running low on juice can be swapped out for a freshly charged one, sending the low-charge vehicle back to the charging station (and to be inspected). This fills two needs: energy efficiency and regular maintenance. You could also have forklift-loadable batteries always charging to be swapped out as needed during high volume days to get vehicles back out sooner without the maintenance checks.

        • But with an automated bus/taxi fleet (or even a manned one), the vehicle that's running low on juice can be swapped out for a freshly charged one

          Swapping means you need an extra bus, and they're expensive. You can do maintenance checks daily, not 'per charge'.

          Rather than forklifting batteries, have a dedicated robot doing it that undoes the bolts and replaces the battery.

      • by necro81 ( 917438 )

        More resistant against vandals

        Perhaps, but inductive chargers are going to be havens for vagrants and the homeless - just think of how warm and toasty they'll be!

        • heh. Not really - they're very efficient today, and would only be powered when there's a vehicle to charge on top of them.

          That being said, it'd be cheaper to just put those types up in housing.

      • So let me get this straight: We're living in a world that is increasingly demanding more and more power, production isn't meeting the demand, we need to get away from coal-fired plants, everyone is too much of a scared caveman to have nuclear power of any kind anymore (not even LFTR), everything and everyone is constantly under pressure to conserve power, yet we're going to throw away all sorts of power as useless heat (which the world does not need!) just to solve your first-world convenience problems? Rea
        • yet we're going to throw away all sorts of power as useless heat (which the world does not need!) just to solve your first-world convenience problems?

          The systems aren't that less efficient. At those scales, induction charging is only a percent or two less efficient than a cable hook-up.

          • How about ZERO inefficiency by just plugging your damn car in? People have been pumping their own gas for decades now, and that's considerably more difficult and dangerous than plugging in a simple cable.
            • How about ZERO inefficiency by just plugging your damn car in?

              There's still loss from the cable, and the transformer that's in the charging unit - whether in the car or in the exterior charger. You can get rid of that transformer when you're using induction.

              As for the danger, at the voltages and amps we're looking at, it actually IS dangerous if it wasn't for that said cables are very much NOT simple, containing sensors to limit voltage potential to what's needed to detect a connection. Something like 1V until it's done a handshake, then it can ramp up to 400V or mo

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Induction for opportunistic charging with less maintenance than using a connector. Connectors wear out, incorrect insertion can damage one or both ends, and they require some sort of above-ground post that can be hit by bad drivers. Inductive plates on the ground are much more robust, so you trade that against the reduced efficiency.

      There is also the convenience. Say you install them at a bus stop, the bus can recharge while it is taking on passengers and then move off immediately.

  • seems it is other companies that are "working on" the technology of wireless charging. and there is no particular technological breakthrough to warrant a story.
    google is just using it, as does others.

  • by grungeman ( 590547 ) on Tuesday February 09, 2016 @05:39AM (#51467777)
    Google should send some of their engineers to Italy. They have been doing this for more than ten years with buses in Turin and Genoa. Seems to work. http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.co... [nytimes.com]
  • Why not just have the car back into a charging station and make physical contact? A self-driving electrical car could drop you off at the front door and go over to a remote part of the parking lot and hook itself up.
    • Because you could place these at spots where the vehicles would commonly be dropping people off or picking them up and each time they did the vehicle could charge. For example put one at the drop off point at the airport and while the person is getting out and taking the luggage out of the trunk you might get a minute or two of charging. Enough of these top ups during the day might let a vehicle get an extra run or two in before having to return to the garage.

      It might make building garages for fleets easi

  • Just throw your hard drives and CRTs on the parking lot for free degaussing!

RAM wasn't built in a day.

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