Nissan Wants To Be A Wireless Charging Leader


Wireless Charging

Wireless charging is one technology that may help convince people to trade in their gasoline powered cars for electric vehicles. Convenience is a big selling point for those who aren’t early adopters or rabid tree huggers. What could be more convenient than parking in your garage and then just walking away, while your car charges itself wirelessly? Plugless Power already offers wireless charging systems for the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt, using hardware supplied by Bosch.

According to Green Car Reports, a  Nissan engineer told journalists during a presentation at the Nissan Technical Center in Atsugi, Japan last month that his company is working to increase the power of the current wireless charging system. “3 kW is not enough, so we’re focusing on higher power,” he said. The engineer hinted that Nissan is striving to increase that number to 7 kW — equivalent to a Level 2 charger. While that may seem minuscule compared to the 135 kW that some Tesla SuperChargers offer, it’s enough power to fully charge a 60 kWh battery such as the one Nissan is expected to introduce on its second generation LEAF due out in 2018 overnight.

One of the drawbacks to current systems is that they must be carefully aligned with the wireless receivers built in to the underside of the cars. Autonomous driving systems will help alleviate that problem, as they will park the car within millimeters of its intended location. But Nissan’s latest systems are capable of working effectively even if the car is up to 6 inches away from the target. The new systems are also higher, to accommodate the needs of taller vehicles like SUVs. Nissan says all its wireless chargers are carefully designed to minimize electromagnetic interference that might interfere with pacemakers or other electronic devices.

Although large scale adoption of wireless charging may be as much as 10 years away, Nissan hopes to share its technology with other car makers. It thinks standardization will be critical to making electric cars the mainstream choice of the future. A few years ago, there was a kerfluffle between Nissan, which adopted the CHAdeMO standard, and other companies that used the CSS charging standard. The two systems are incompatible with each other and that battle of technologies may have prevented some potential customers from buying an electric car at all.



About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I’m interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.

  • AaronD12

    3kW is still equal to a L2 charger. My LEAF S doesn’t have the charging package, so it will only charge at 3.3kW. Even at the slower rate, that’s plenty for me. Some people still rely on the 120V (.96kW) charger for daily use!

    • Steve Hanley

      Thanks for that feedback, Aaron. I think the issue is prospective in nature. As batteries increase in size and power and electric cars acquire more range, faster charging speed will be required.

  • Marion Meads

    The main drawback of wireless charging is the efficiency. What is the overall efficiency of Nissan’s wireless chargers from the wall to the batteries? If it is more than 95%, I would be fine with it, but lower than that, it is tantamount to adding additional load on the grid that does nothing. The losses of electricity transmission over the grid line is about 5%-10%, and we were decrying such losses, the equivalent of several nuclear powered plants. Now add the more than 10% losses from the ones currently on sale. This is bad, inefficient, I’d rather plug-it-in than contribute additional losses to the grid!

    There is in fact a very simple solution to this that I have suggested several times and could reduce losses to less than 1%. Have the plate automatically attach to the bottom of the car, and then it detaches automatically when the car is fully recharged or when you move. The car won’t move unless the charging plate has detached. It still is being charged by induction, so no wires are exposed, but the distance is minimized. The latching can be done by magnetic means, and the plate can be programmed to home in to the matching spot under the car, and it should be very easy, even the iRobot roomba knows how to align itself. So there is greater leeway up to 2 feet off center or more is fine, as long as you park the car within the lines.

    I am speculating that the best wireless charging system out there will only have an efficiency of as high as 90%, including that of Nissan. If you can dig that info and post it here that the efficiency is much higher, then wireless could be recommendable. As it is, the other systems out there, decreases the overall charging efficiency, what a waste for the sake of convenience.

    • Steve Hanley

      According to the source article, the efficiency of the prototype is “more than 85%.” Not that terrific, is it? : – (

      I love your idea. It makes so much sense. And you are right. Until such time as we harness all the power of the sun and have so much electricity available we don’t know what to do with it all, efficiency should be of paramount concern to everyone.

      One of the largely overlooked benefits of residential solar is that is avoids the often enormous losses that high voltage transmission lines suffer. I have read that as little as 50% of all the electricity generated ever actually gets put to good use. That is something that needs much more attention.

      Thank you for your comment, Marion.

  • Indy Resident

    Yes! This is needed! I currently have a Nissan Leaf with the Plugless upgrade. The manufacturer actually flew a technician here on an airplane to oversee the installation of the induction pad. Fantastic customer service. The charging rate is fine for the battery size in my car. But, yes, someday, they will need an automated charger that works faster for bigger batteries to maintain the same charge times as my small battery. As for the efficiency of my Plugless, its loss in efficiency can be counteracted by adding only one additional rooftop solar panel, which I have done. Long term, induction is a losing bet. I would greatly prefer a robot to plug a cord in for the highest efficiency.

    • Glad to hear you are enjoying your Plugless system Brian (and for the props on our customer service). Our 6.6kW Plugless system is only months away from being sold (rolled out first for Tesla S models and then BMW i3). For the VAST majority of daily driving ranges this speed of overnight charging should work. (Obviously not for everyone, and not ALL the time…). Going above 7kW has SIGNIFICANT electrical supply costs for the home or businesses. Likewise there are hidden costs for robots in development, installation and then there are maintenance costs for moving parts. However, we certainly will keep an eye on the market to see if we need to offer that kind of feature at the additional price point. Long-term inductive chargers may be the key to smaller battery packs, but that’s a whole other article.

      • Brian W

        Agree on all points! Like I said, I was able to justify the “loss in efficiency” by (A) Imagining that it’s a space heater (B) Adding another solar panel (C) Acknowledging the fact that I probably would have ended up selling this short range EV instead of plugging it in 1x – 3x a day. Persuading other people it’s worth the “space heating” benefit is a tough sell. But, so are EVs in general. I am pleased to see your company pays for social media scrubbing and pays attention to the comments people make. In case it’s not already abundantly clear: I absolutely LOVE my Plugless charger! Combined with rooftop solar, and an EV, it’s the baddest combination of things I have ever owned in my life. In my lifetime, I have bought somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000 worth of tangible things. House, cars, toys. This by far is the baddest thing I have ever owned in my life. Keep up the good work Plugless!

        • Thanks (you mean you bought the LEAF for under $15K…not Plugless). Also we’re careful not to scrub social media, only add value, inform :-). We know quite a few Plugless customers with Solar – they love the combo. One other point to make – ALL of the EV manufacturers are pursuing hands-free charging, most of them inductive charging. When they speak to us they tell us that potential customers perceive cords to be hassle (right or wrong, it’s just perception) and that has an impact on sales. From our side, and this is just anecdotal, we have had customers who decided to make the leap to EV b/c they found out about Plugless…that is why we exist, it’s part of our mission.

          Charge On!

  • Indy Resident

    One additional point. Since moving to a tankless water heater in my garage, the garage is a wee bit colder during the winter after losing 10,000btu’s an hour of free heat from the tank heater. The Plugless Induction Charger does indeed spew off a bit of heat as it is only 84-88% efficient. But, thankfully, that 500btu’s an hour of free heat is welcome in the winter. And, as I said, with solar panels on my roof, electric heating from the Plugless costs nothing. Can’t say the same for a gas water heater.

  • Steve from Plugless here – note: Bosch does not supply any parts for our systems.