Umer Anwer stops on the street near Tesla’s Brooklyn showroom and grabs his smartphone. He’s looking for a spot to charge his electric car, and the Tesla charging plugs won’t work with the Nissan Leaf he’s driving. In fact, he would prefer not to bother with a plug at all.
Hevo , the wireless-charging startup where Anwer is chief technology officer, aims to overturn the burgeoning industry that’s busy building out a global infrastructure to provide power to electric cars through public plugs. There were about 582,000 public charging outlets worldwide at the end of 2017, according to a recent report by Bloomberg NEF, and that number is forecast to grow by nearly 30 percent this year. Virtually every one of these charging locations uses plugs.
Anwer eventually maneuvers his electric car over a device that looks like a white plastic panel, then presses a button on a smartphone app. After pulling into the parking space, blue dots flash under the windshield to indicate that power is now flowing into his battery. There’s about six inches of empty space between the charger and the car, which has been modified to receive power through an electromagnetic field.
This could represent the future of car charging. Suburban driveways, public spaces, parking lots, and interstate rest stops could all be tricked out with wireless ports to serve the tens of millions of electric cars expected to be on the roads over the next two decades.
Wireless charging, if it catches on, may provide a solution for one of the main questions hanging over electric cars: How can cities accommodate the infrastructure needed without cluttering up streets with posts and wires. In cities like New York, London and Hong Kong, where parking is scarce, it’s difficult to imagine where extra space can be made to accommodate idle cars while they recharge.