One morning, a Volvo engineer was brushing his teeth using their electric toothbrush. Whilst waiting for his toothbrush to tell them that they'd brushed enough, this engineer (we'll call him Chris) allowed his mind to wander.
Chris started to think about electric cars. “They're brilliant,” he thought. “Truly, truly brilliant.
“My favourite thing about electric cars is that, compared to petrol and diesel cars, they're so easy to refuel.
“Whilst with most cars you have to source a petrol station whilst on your travels, with an electric car, all you have to do is plug it in overnight. Then, come morning, your car's fully charged and ready for another day of beautiful zero emission motoring.
"Of course, if you're considering a long road trip that's another matter entirely. But so long as you're just commuting within your car's range, all will be well.
“Now, if only we could do away with the wire," he mused, "things would be even easier. Imagine! Pulling up into your drive and not even having to wire your car up to the grid! But that's silly. It can never be.”
Then, shaking his head and smiling at his own naivety, Chris placed his electric toothbrush back into its cradle to charge.
As it happens, Volvo have been experimenting with inductive charging technology for electric cars. And, funny enough, the resulting technology might well have been inspired by the sort of technology that we currently use to charge our electric toothbrushes.
Chris wasn't so mad after all.
How Does Inductive Charging Work?
Inductive charging essentially replaces a wire with an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects. Using an induction coil, a charging base station produces an alternating electromagnetic field. This is piked up by a second induction coil in a portable device, where it's then converted back into electrical energy to charge a battery.
Though not currently available for the charging of electric cars, this technology has been commonplace for years in such household appliances as – yes – an electric toothbrush.
Volvo have been testing this idea on an electric C30 model.
“With inductive charging, you simply position the car over a charging device and charging starts automatically,” Says the Volvo Vice President of Electric Propulsion Systems.
“We believe that this is one of the factors that can increase the customer’s acceptance of electrified vehicles.”
Inductive charging might never beat the efficiency, reliability and the capacity offered by conventional wired charging. But that said, imagine being able to pull into a garage forecourt and park your electric car over a charging conductor whilst you pop inside for a coffee, knowing that when you emerge, you're car will be as refreshed as you are.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and Volvo seemingly have quite a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to the many questions posed by electric cars.
Even though he's a fictional rhetorical device, I think Chris deserves a promotion.
Lead image from Wikimedia Commons.