Wireless charging is already closer to electric vehicle users thanks to the ‘Unplugged’ project

Published on Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The institutional closure of the European Project Unplugged has taken place today in Zaragoza. This Project is a European initiative that in the past two years and a half has developed the fast wireless charging of electric vehicles and has investigated how the use of this inductive charging in urban environments improves the convenience and sustainability of electric mobility. Among other representatives, Marina Sevilla, general manager of energy and mines in the Government of Aragón; the general marketing manager of Endesa, Mr. Javier Uriarte; general manager of CIRCE Foundation, Antonio Valero; as well as representatives from across the European Consortium, participated in the event.

The primary objective of the Unplugged Project was to build a flexible inductive charging station which enables to charge electric vehicles up to 50 kW, which is the master key, for instance, when providing a full integration of electric vehicles in the urban road system (dynamic or en-route induction). Unplugged has fulfilled these objectives by examining in detail the technical feasibility, practical problems, interoperability, perception of the user and socioeconomic impact of inductive charging.

Today’s agenda has included the real demonstration of this charging system for two different power needs in charging: a light vehicle (3.7kW) and a van (50kW), achieving flexibility of charge in addition to enabling smart communication between the vehicle and the network, in line with the latest inductive charging standards and taking into account interoperability.

In addition to its use in roads, this charging solution will allow to offer flexible charging services based on customer needs, for instance in public car parks on the street:

  • Slow charging (3.7kW) at night: “I park the car at 8 pm, pick it up at 8 a.m. and it is fully charged”.
  • Fast charge (up to 50 kW) at daytime. “I have to charge my EV, I use the 20 minutes needed to go shopping while the car is charging”.
  • It reduces maintenance costs related to vandalisms of traditional conductive (wired) charging systems.
  • Opportunity of new business models for public transport, for instance  taxis or buses or at shopping centres, hotels, etc, for instance, where the client leaves the EV charging during his/her stay.

Project partners

The UNPLUGGED consortium is managed by FKA and ENIDE and coordinates the efforts of the main players of the sector: automotive (such as Volvo, Centro Ricerche Fiat, Hella or Continental), energy (ENEL and ENDESA) and transport companies (such as Transport for London) between the various key research and technology centres, such as the CIRCE Foundation, for a total of 17 partners.

Enel has carried out, within the “Unplugged” project, a study on the integration of fast wireless recharging systems in the distribution grid with the aim of building a “smart recharging infrastructure for electric vehicles” encompassing both conductive (wired) and inductive (wireless) recharging systems.

Enel’s Electric Mobility Management (EMM) platform, the operating core of Enel’s European electric vehicles recharging infrastructure also integrating third-parties’ stations, is designed to ensure the “smart integration” of charging systems to the grid by remotely controlling and operating wired and wireless charging facilities. Moreover, an assessment of the impact of a massive rollout of wireless charging stations on Enel distribution grid in Italy has shown full grid capability to respond to such a rollout.

Endesa, the Spanish subsidiary of the Enel Group, had led the working group that, in a pioneer move worldwide, has designed and built together with the Circe Foundation in Zaragoza the fast wireless charging station as well as the in-vehicle equipment enabling wireless recharge.

Concept of induction

The method for charging electric vehicles by inductive charge represents an alternative to the conductive charging method that is performed through connection of a cable between the vehicle and the charge point.

Based on this method, the EV user will just park the car over a platform charging underground, and, with no type of physical contact or additional effort, the car battery will be charged.

This innovative system is based on wireless power transfer (WPT) between a device integrated in the electric vehicle (secondary coil)  and another buried underground (primary coil), without any connection cable  between the electric vehicle and the charging point.

Advantages of inductive charging

  • It is a simple, convenient system for the user, as since no cable must be connected physically, it is not necessary to leave the vehicle during charging.
  • The system is safe against vandalism because all devices are enclosed in the vehicle and in the ground.
  • This system works in a range of adverse environments, including extreme temperatures, as well as under water or covered by ice and snow.
  • It does not cause any negative visual impact in the cityscape as all devices are hidden below ground. This advantage is important in the case of trains and urban trams because such devices do not need aerial cables.

Annex: Companies of the consortium

The Unplugged project has been a European initiative supported by the Seventh Framework Agreement for Research and Technological Development (7PM) where 17 partners have been involved, including private firms, such as Enel and Endesa, research centres and European universities. Cities such as Barcelona and Florence have also collaborated. It had a 2.3 million Euro budget and a scheduled duration of two years and a half.