Engineering news

Could iPhone X be watershed moment for wireless charging of electric cars?

Joseph Flaig

The new iPhone X (Credit: Apple)
The new iPhone X (Credit: Apple)

Wireless charging in the latest iPhones could be a watershed moment for the technology and lead to its adoption in other sectors, industry bosses have claimed.

The £999 iPhone X and cheaper iPhone 8 will both feature wireless charging capabilities, Apple announced yesterday. Users will place their devices on third-party charging 'mats' made by Qi, Belkin or Mophie, or officially branded AirPower chargers from next year.

Other companies such as Samsung have already introduced wireless charging for some smartphone models, but – as with the iPod, iPhone and iPad before – Apple’s championing of a technology is often seen as a major first step in its wider adoption.

“This is a huge step for wireless charging,” said Hayley Freedman, co-founder of wireless charging company CHARGit. “I strongly believe that the new iPhones will make wireless charging as ever-present as wi-fi.”

The automotive sector is one industry that could potentially see widespread introduction of the technology. Wireless vehicle charging has fuelled experimental transport projects for several years and entered some private garages, but it is yet to truly break into the mainstream.

Infrastructure and efficiency issues could still limit its roll-out for several years, University of Reading engineering professor Ben Potter told Professional Engineering.

Most wireless charging uses electromagnetic induction. One coil creates a magnetic field when current is applied, inducing voltage in the receiving coil. Transferring energy through the air results in a loss of efficiency not found when simply plugging in a device, said Potter.

With cars, he said he would be surprised to find efficiency “much beyond or even close to 90%, which isn’t terrible but when we’re trying to not waste energy as much as possible… I think that efficiency hit might be relevant".

Wireless charging in driveways or garages would certainly be convenient, added Potter, but he claimed it would not “outweigh the hassle” of higher prices and lower efficiency.

One popular proposal for the future of electric vehicles is installing charging coils beneath roads, so cars charge as they travel. Despite the potential ease of use, the infrastructure challenge of digging up roads and installing kit means it is unlikely in countries such as the UK, claimed Potter, and is perhaps better suited for countries such as China with large new city and road projects.

However, CHARGit and industry body Airfuel Alliance still welcomed Apple’s move. “Now that Apple is completely on-board with wireless charging, it should be the catalyst for most of the world to follow suit,” said Freedman.

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