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Volvo working on wireless EV charging

Wireless: An inductive charging technique in development is expected to be able to charge the 24kWh battery pack in Volvo's C30 DRIVe EV in one hour and 20 minutes.

Volvo throws its hat into the ring on inductive charging

25 May 2011

VOLVO is the latest car-maker to try its hand at wireless inductive charging for electric vehicles, participating in a project which also includes the company that supplies the majority of Melbourne’s trams.

The Continuous Electric Drive (CED) project - led by Belgian company Flanders Drive – is developing a system that could allow Volvo’s future EV range to gain power regeneration from a charging ‘plate’ buried in the road surface rather than traditional power sockets and cords.

Other members of the project are Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool and Canadian tram-maker Bombardier, which also supplies trains to Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane and owns manufacturing plants in Dandenong, Victoria and Maryborough, Queensland.

“The aim is naturally that it should be as convenient as possible to own and use an electric car," said Johan Konnberg, project manager from the Special Vehicles division of Volvo Car Corporation.

Wireless inductive EV charging transfers alternating current (AC) through a coil in the charging plate via a magnetic field to the car’s inductive ‘pick-up’.

 center imageLeft: A diagram of the Continuous Electric Drive program in action.

A voltage converter in the car then turns the alternating current into direct current (DC) with, which in turn charges the battery pack.

Using the system, the Volvo C30 Electric’s 24kWh battery pack – equal in capacity to the battery of Nissan’s pioneering Leaf – is expected to be fully recharged from flat to full in an hour and twenty minutes.

Its cordless convenience means that inductive charging is seen by many experts as the way of the future, and many carmakers are in the process of developing their own methods of harnessing the technology.

Laura Marlino, a research engineer at the world-renowned Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said at last month’s Automotive Power Electronics conference in Paris that the introduction of wireless charging was “not a matter of if but when”.

Manufacturers such as Renault, Nissan, Toyota, BMW and even Rolls-Royce have all either produced prototypes with inductive charging or are in the process of developing the technology, while global electrics giants Delphi and Siemens have also invested in its development.

Meanwhile, Volvo is continuing to edge ever closer to self-driving cars, recently conducting closed-road trials of ‘road trains’, whereby a car connects to – and mimics – the movements of a lead vehicle.

The company’s senior safety engineer, Thomas Broberg told UK publication Autocar that: “Road trains allow a driver to use their time better, drive safer, reduce congestion and improve the environment.

“You’re always following another car, so why not let the driving be done by someone else?” he said.

The technology, which Mr Broberg believes will feature on Europe’s roads by the end of the decade, utilises camera, laser and radar technology to judge distances and control the braking and steering of the car.

Earlier this month, Volvo Cars announced first quarter operating earnings of $640 million Swedish Krona ($AUD96 million) and retail sales of 106,827 units, an improvement of 13.7 per cent.

Sweden's largest car-maker, which is owned by Chinese auto giant Geely, said that volume growth was recorded in all global markets.

The Nordic region improved by 22.9 per cent, China by 10.5 per cent, North America by 9.1 per cent, Europe by 9.7 per cent and Rest of World by 27.6 percent, compared with 2010.

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