Kiwis plug into wireless electric car charging

02:01, Jun 20 2012

A University of Auckland spin-off company is helping to make wireless charging of electric cars a reality.

Will Charles, Auckland Uniservices general manager technology development, talked about inductive power technology (IPT) at Te Papa today.

He said IPT pads could be placed underneath garages to wirelessly charge electric vehicles. He added that pads embedded in roads could charge electric vehicles as they drove, and extend their range.

Charles was a founding director of HaloIPT, recently purchased by telecommunications manufacturer Qualcomm, which developed wireless charging for electric vehicles.

His talk was part of Electric Vehicle Day, organised by the Wellington City Council ahead of the Apec Electric Vehicle Connectivity Workshop, also at Te Papa.

Another speaker was Professor CC Chan, regarded as the ''grandfather of the electric car'' who said New Zealand should unite with other small island nations like Hong Kong to create a standardised electric vehicle (EV) market to rival dominant markets in the US and Asia.

The former University of Hong Kong Head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering said New Zealand was the ''ideal place to promote the electric vehicle''

''We have to unite with similar places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau and Cyprus - if we combine together we make a bigger market.''

Professor Chan mooted the idea of a standardised market in the island nations to challenge the dominance of the US - especially California - and Asia in the development and uptake of EVs and EV infrastructure.

New Zealand was in a good position to be part of an aggregated demand for electric vehicles to partner with other small countries to create a common market.

The move could lower the cost of electric cars, which have up to a 50 per cent markup in New Zealand compared to Asia and the US.

A range of electric cars, including the only electric sports car in New Zealand, was on show outside Te Papa today.

The Tesla Roadster "super car", owned by Island Bay international patent agent Ian Mirandah, costs an estimated $136,000 and can accelerate from 0 to 100 kmh in 3.7 seconds.

Charging the car was easy: ''it's just like an iPod basically,'' he said.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said some of the cars were already available in New Zealand.

"They're the vehicle of today, not just the vehicle of tomorrow."

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV, worth $60,000, has been on sale for two years in New Zealand. The Nissan Leaf has a spoiler-mounted solar panel to help power its electrical systems. It is available from $69,600.

Wade-Brown said the council had been using electric pool cars for more than two years. She wanted people to see the range of electric vehicles that was available.

"There's a danger that people only think of the simplest or most expensive. Here you've got everything from the grandest sports car, the Tesla, which I think must be one of the most beautiful sports cars no matter how it's powered, through to the RAV4 that's been retrofitted with an electric motor that's very affordable."

"I have to say an electric car is one of the easiest cars to drive, because there aren't any gears."

EECA transport partnerships manager Elizabeth Yeamen said New Zealand had an advantage with its 230-volt electricity supply that meant an electric vehicle could be recharged in seven hours, rather than 14.

The workshop aimed to improve understanding of how electric vehicles connect and interact with electricity grids, look into the readiness of the electricity grids and the standards and policies that affect EV connectivity across APEC nations and identify opportunities where harmonisation of standards and policies could increase the spread of electric vehicle technologies across national boundaries.

Meanwhile a Wellington City Council run trial of eight Mitsubishi i-MiEV all-electric vehicles has returned generally positive feedback in a recent survey.

Trial participants included the Council, New Zealand Post, The Wellington Company and Meridian Energy. The trial started in September 2010 with five vehicles, with three more arriving in December 2010.

Overall, the feedback from employees who used the vehicles, including 37 from the Council, was positive.

Participants gave the cars an average 8.5 out of 10 rating while 50 percent said their opinion of EVs had improved.

The survey found pre-trial concerns about the quietness of the car, lack of range and not being powerful enough were unfounded.