Qualcomm to pioneer wireless EV charging in London

22 Nov 2011

Dr Paul E Jacobs, chairman of the Qualcomm board of directors and company CEO

San Diego next-gen and 3G wireless pioneer Qualcomm has set its sights on revolutionising the future of electric mobility charging. It is heading to London next year for its first-ever wireless electric vehicle charging (WEVC) trial that will take place in the east London Tech City cluster.

Think of wireless phone charging and then apply it to the EV space, albeit with larger batteries to charge!

Qualcomm, which operates in the rapid adoption and growth of 3G and next-generation wireless globally, will be collaborating with the UK government, as well as the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s office and Transport for London (TfL) to deliver the trial. Addison Lee, the UK’s largest minicab company, and Chargemaster, the European operator of advanced EV charging infrastructure, have also agreed to participate in the trial.

The trial will use Qualcomm wireless inductive power transfer technology that the company says enables high-efficiency power transfer across a large air gap. The wireless system will mean EV owners can charge their car wirelessly at high efficiency across the air gap, according to Qualcomm.

Andrew Gilbert, executive vice-president of European Innovation Development at Qualcomm, said wireless charging eradicates the need for an EV plug-in cable and makes charging of electric vehicles less complicated.

EVs are presently charged either via home charging stations, by on-street charging stations, charging points in shopping centres, petrol stations and in certain office car parks.

According to Qualcomm, its technology is easy to use: the driver parks the vehicle in the usual way and the system automatically aligns for power transfer, making parking easier and charging less complicated.

In other words, you don’t need to hook your car up directly to a charging point; rather the EV owner can park near a charging station that can be either above or below ground.

The pre-commercial trial is expected to start in early 2012 and will involve as up to 50 EVs.

David Cameron’s backing

The trial, which will be based partially in Tech City, the East London cluster, has already got the backing of UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Both the UK government and Qualcomm hope the trial will leverage the Tech City entrepreneurial community and encourage companies to innovate around services and applications, in order to enhance the smart EV experience.

“This wireless charging technology is a giant leap forward for the electric car industry and I am delighted that London businesses will be among the first to benefit from the trial. Creative, high-tech advances such as this are extremely important as we work to rebalance our economy,” Cameron said recently.

The UK government has already created a stg£30m fund to kick-start installation of recharging points in eight areas across the UK.

Electric car epicentre?

Johnson said that in his “quest” to deliver cleaner air for the capital, he wants London to be the electric car epicentre of Europe.

“Encouraging a massive uptake in electric driving is key to this vision of becoming a zero-emission city. We are already on this path with Transport for London delivering a city-wide charging network, but we need to go further. This trial is an innovative new facet of my plans, with the promise to help drivers go electric with even greater confidence,” said Johnson.

A WEVC steering committee with representatives from TfL, the mayor’s office, and central government will be set up to oversee the trial. The trial is open to any company, such as vehicle manufacturers, that wishes to participate.

The genesis of Qualcomm dates back to 1985 when seven industry veterans came together. The septet, Franklin Antonio, Adelia Coffman, Andrew Cohen, Klein Gilhousen, Irwin Jacobs, Andrew Viterbi and Harvey White – set out their plan for a new start-up.

Qualcomm initially concentrated contract research and development services, with limited product manufacturing, for the wireless telecommunications market.

Its first commercial product in 1988 was OmniTRACS, a satellite-based commercial mobile system for the transportation industry. In 1989, the company then brought out a technology for wireless and data product,s Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), a technology that really put Qualcomm on the global map for wireless communications.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic