Conventional Battery Chargers
At the end of the day, you might walk through the door of your home, plunk your keys down onto the counter, and then grab your cell phone either from your pocket or your purse. As a matter of habit, you reach for your phone’s charging cord and insert the connector into the charge port. Your phone issues a small beep, confirming that it is receiving a charge. You walk off into the kitchen, and yell, “Honey, what’s for dinner!”.
For what may seem to be an innocuous beginning to a typical workaday evening, it’s the accumulation of those “little things” that add up to create your entire reality as it is now. Among the many things that contribute to your lifestyle are all of the modern gizmos and gadgets that make your life so convenient. So much has changed in the recent years, and all of this change can be attributed to the sum of all of those little things, like those gadgets.
Well, yet another thing may be changing again soon.
When you think about electric cars, you most likely envision a somewhat smaller, slightly off-the-wall vehicle that silently whisks its way down the road. When it arrives at its destination, the driver may try to find a power receptacle into which to plug the recharger cord. Likewise, when the driver gets home, you envision the car plugged into a wall socket to re-energize its batteries. Before leaving the following morning, the driver has yet again to disconnect the power cord.
Search engine giant Google has recently received some press on its use of a electric car of a similar kind, but with one of these extra gizmos that’s making all the hubbub.
As it is with many modern conveniences, the hottest of convenient technology is a convenient gizmo that’s become an even more convenient gizmo. In the case of this electric car, instead of plugging it in for a recharge, the driver merely needs to park the car in a certain place and then walk away. No strings – or cords – attached.
So How Does This Work?
Most of us know that when we plug the device into a charger, energy flows through wires to deliver a fresh charge to the device’s battery. The same principle applies to electric cars. However, the new twist here is that the battery charger is wireless. Effectively the technology works the same as wired chargers, except instead of using metal wires, electricity is delivered through the air.
On the charger side of the process, the charger gets its electricity from a regular wall outlet (à la home appliances), the house current is converted into an electrical current that gets discharged from the charger in the form of — for the lack of better words — radio waves. These radio waves travel through the air — usually over a distance of just a few feet — and strike an antenna-like receptacle on the electric car.
Upon detecting the electrical signal, the car and the charger communicate with each other briefly before the signal power boosts up, thus causing the delivery of electricity over the air into the car. Powerful charging of the car battery has commenced in earnest.
New But Old
While this may sound like leading edge technology, it actually isn’t. The notion of charging devices using air-delivered electricity has been around even before humans showed up on the scene. How is this possible?
Air Chargers in Nature & Classic Literature
Electrically charged air currents have shown up in nature in the form of the aurora borealis (the Northern lights) and St. Elmo’s fire, among others. During natural occurrences of electrified discharge in the air, stories of glowing trees, mountains, or other somewhat pointed natural objects protruding from the ground abound in ancient lore.
More recently, we hear mention of electrical air discharges in the form of St. Elmo’s fire in 19th century treatises such as Moby Dick, whereby Starbuck utters his eerie pronouncement, “The corpusants! The corpusants!”
In the nascent industrial age of the 19th century, we find that famed scientist Mikola Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transfer to power electronic devices as early as 1893, and he aspired to intercontinental wireless transmission of industrial power in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project.
Wireless Power Delivery in Your Hand
In more modern times, radio signals deliver power in some form for many applications. Music stations, wireless laptops, and even that your cell phone in your hand, all deliver power that gets converted into a useful form. The use of radio waves to charge devices is merely a new spin on an old idea.
So, my friend, while seemingly new and exciting, the notion of delivering power over the air is nothing new, too.
Concerns Over Excessive Radiation
Since cellular telephones showed up on the scene, there’s been incessant talk about the dangers of the radio waves that cell phones emit. In my opinion this danger is wholly justified.
While the debate still rages onward, let’s face it: radiation of any kind is radiation. Sure, there is radiation coming from the sun (which, by the way, in large doses is unhealthy), low levels of radiation from a common household light bulb, background radiation from radioactive elements lying within the earth, and, yes, radiation being emitted by your own body. The list goes on…
Yes, radiation exists in natural forms, and we are exposed to it continuously.
However, the marked rise in radiation levels coming from unnatural sources does raise legitimate concern to the point where we have to ask, “Is this all adding up to too much?” Some say yes. According to a report issued the Dutch government, we’ve arrived on the bad side of the radiation scene. When bringing up the notion of a wireless car charger, we’re talking high-power – lots of power. Conceivably even in dangerous amounts.
As cool as this “new” technology sounds, if it were me, I would shy away from standing for too long in that open space between a wireless charger and an electric vehicle’s wireless charger receptacle.