BMW says it’s planning to unveil a wireless charging pad for its 530e iPerformance plug-in hybrid that will be capable of fully charing the car and its 92 kWh lithium-ion battery pack in 3½ hours. The BMW Wireless Charging device will be available in early 2018 — though not, apparently, in the U.S.
Wireless charging is hardly a new concept, though BMW appears to be one of the first automakers to offer a factory charging pad as an option with a new model. The system involves a base pad containing a primary coil that plugs into a 220-volt outlet and a secondary coil in the vehicle’s undercarriage. An alternating magnetic field travels between the two coils, charging the car at a rate of 3.2 kilowatts, nearly as fast as being plugged in. Sensors in the car also help direct you to the proper position above the pad.
BMW plans to launch the system early next year in other countries. The Verge eports that the technology is still being tested and evaluated in the U.S. and Canada, where it has not yet received UL approval, and will launch later on. There’s also no word on pricing.
The proliferation of electric vehicles by automakers such as BMW, Volkswagen and Jaguar, which have all announced ambitious plans to electrify their fleets in the coming years, figures to expand the popularity of wireless charging systems. Already there are several options available. The Mercedes-Benz S550e plug-in hybrid pairs with a wireless charger from Qualcomm. The company Evatran makes plugless charging pad versions for Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, BMW 13 and the Chevy Volt. Companies have also been working to embed charging pads in the road that can charge vehicle batteries while they drive — and even repair cracks in pavement before they become potholes.
Of course, it remains to be seen how well these charging pads hold up to being run over by your kid’s skateboard.