Mercedes-Benz’ 2017 S550E hybrid sedan is expected to add wireless charging to its lengthy options list when it receives its midlife-cycle refresh early next year, making it the first mass-production car to offer consumers the technology.
By equipping its hybrid-powered flagship sedan with wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) Mercedes-Benz will have broken the mold and the status quo of “plug-in” hybrids.
Like other wireless charging systems for phones or laptops, the technology at play, developed by Qualcomm, will make use of the phenomenon of electromagnetism.
Owners of the S550E will install a pad on their parking spot that will align with a pad on the bottom of their vehicle when parked. The parking pad contains multiple coils capable of generating a dense, resonating magnetic field, which will trickle-charge the S550E’s 8.7-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery unit with over 90-percent efficiency.
According to a report by Motor Trend, a tier-1 power electronics company will be licenced to use the Qualcomm Halo technology in the WEVC system supplied to Mercedes-Benz.
Anthony Thomson, Qualcomm’s vice president of business development and marketing, told Motor Trend that its Halo technology can be uprated from its hybrid-car power transfer rate of 11 kW; to 125 kW for charging the big buses that have tested the technology in the U.K.
That said, Qualcomm is focused on the personal vehicle market and believes it can render 150-kW fast-charging systems such as Tesla’s Supercharger network redundant, since vehicles are typically parked for long enough durations to gain a full charge from its WEVC system, which will cost far less to purchase and install than a high-voltage fast-charging system.
Qualcomm is working on a prototype in-road inductive charging system that will be capable of charging electric vehicles and WEVC-equipped hybrids on the go. The best application of such a system would be in extra-urban areas where vehicles experience frequent stop-and-go traffic, thereby allowing them to continuously charge while navigating city streets.
The only glitch? Much like a microwave oven, the electromagnetic field generated by the WEVC system will heat up animals or objects positioned within the field while it’s actively charging.
To mitigate this hazard, future vehicles will be equipped with sensors to detect if an object or animal is positioned within the charging field, and if so, the charging will be cancelled or paused.
You can bet that BMW, Audi, Lexus and other competitors in the premium hybrid and electric vehicle segment are eagerly developing their own WEVC analogues.
(Motor Trend with photo from Mercedes-Benz)