Wirelessly Transmitting Electricity

June 2017

If electric cars could recharge while driving down a highway, it would virtually eliminate concerns about their range and lower their cost, perhaps making electricity the standard fuel for vehicles.

Now Stanford University scientists have overcome a major hurdle to such a future by wirelessly transmitting electricity to a nearby moving object. Their results are published in the June 15 edition of Nature.

"In addition to advancing the wireless charging of vehicles and personal devices like cellphones, our new technology may untether robotics in manufacturing, which also are on the move," said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering and senior author of the study. "We still need to significantly increase the amount of electricity being transferred to charge electric cars, but we may not need to push the distance too much more."

The group built on existing technology developed in 2007 at MIT for transmitting electricity wirelessly over a distance of a few feet to a stationary object. In the new work, the team transmitted electricity wirelessly to a moving LED lightbulb. That demonstration only involved a 1-milliwatt charge, whereas electric cars often require tens of kilowatts to operate. The team is now working on greatly increasing the amount of electricity that can be transferred, and tweaking the system to extend the transfer distance and improve efficiency.

"We can rethink how to deliver electricity not only to our cars, but to smaller devices on or in our bodies," Fan said. "For anything that could benefit from dynamic, wireless charging, this is potentially very important."

The study was also co-authored by former Stanford research associate Xiaofang Yu. Part of the work was supported by the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy at Stanford.

 

Excerpted from Stanford News, "Wireless charging of moving electric vehicles overcomes major hurdle in new Stanford research," June 14, 2017.