Sprint Power is currently developing a series of wireless charging models for a government-backed trial in Nottingham, with this to demonstrate the suitability of wireless charging for a fleet of electric taxis.
Specifically, Sprint Power is developing an electrical distribution system, a power distribution module and a high voltage harness assembly that will enable the taxis to charge wirelessly via pads attached to the ground.
Ben Russell, commercial director at Sprint Power, explained to Current± that the trial is focused on fleet vehicles such as taxis that have a low dwell time, with wireless charging able to help further the electrification of these vehicles.
For taxis, charging can be an issue particularly at taxi ranks. Russell gave the example of a taxi pulling into a taxi rank, plugging in to a charger and then as it moves up the rank, unplug and plug into the next one.
"It's just not going to be something you're going to see drivers warming to," he said. "It's an extra headache that they don't want to have to deal with."
There's therefore a need to cater for the needs of these types of fleet drivers who need to charge wherever and whenever they can. While many fleets have the opportunity to charge overnight, those such as taxis don't necessarily have that eight hour window overnight, particularly as some taxi drivers will share their vehicle with other drivers.
However, as taxis come back to places such taxi ranks on a regular basis, the wireless charging pads can be installed in those locations where it's known they'll stop for five or ten minutes or even half an hour. This means that taxi drivers won't need to continually plug in and unplug as they move up the taxi rank.
Simply put, Sprint Power's technology includes a bit of kit that can take charging from a cable or charging from the wireless pad, with the car never knowing which of those it's actually talking to.
"Basically, we trick the car to believe that it's always plugged into the wall.
"We're able to quickly and easily without any of the inconvenience make the most of those dwell times. This is all about the end consumer and enabling a lot of those vehicles where electrification at the moment is just too much hassle to make that transfer to electrified transport," Russell said.
These sorts of projects are of particular importance for both Sprint Power and the wider industry. Not only do they bring consortiums together that "just wouldn't be possible in a normal commercial environment", they also allow Sprint Power to generate core bits of IP.
The full consortium involved in the project in Nottingham includes CENEX, Coventry University, Nottingham City Council, Shell, Parking Energy and Transport for London.
"This type of project helps us to get all that ground level knowledge and IP developed so that we can then hopefully be in the right place at the right time to assist the industry for the future," Russell said.
Indeed, wireless charging has many applications beyond taxis and wider fleets - which Russell described as a first application - with further examples of where it could be deployed in the future being schools and even potentially driveways for those not wanting to get into the garage every night to plug the car in.
"Wireless is a really important technology going forward," he finished.