BMW First To Market With Wireless Charging For PHEVs

In a move anticipated for at least the last several months and more than a few years in the making, BMW has become the first automaker to transform wireless charging for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles from concept into reality. Production of the Inductive Charging Station, which comprises two separate components, begins this July and will be offered as an option to lessees of the 530e iPerformance sport sedan.

Different takes and adaptations of the idea have been circulating for several years now, picking up significant steam when Tesla broadened the market substantially with the introduction of its Model S some six years ago back in June of 2012. Firms and individuals alike have shown conceptual visions of what the future could look like, with garage floors that feature sunken-in, fully integrated charging hardware. Last year BMW released a video preview of their own system, which has now reached tangible form (a prototype was demonstrated during the launch of the M540i in Bavaria). Rather than busting up concrete or running thick-gauge lines to some kind of mat, the system uses an elegant and simple setup which looks easy enough to set up in a variety of home parking situations.

The new Inductive Charging Station is made of up two core components: the GroundPad, which is fully weatherproof and reportedly capable of shrugging off repeatedly being run over; and the CarPad, which is fixed to the bottom of the 530e. The system appears simple and sleek, but BMW is said to offer installation service, presumably focused on securing the CarPad in place. Batteries of the 530e can be completely charged from empty in approximately three and a half hours, and the two pads are separated by a distance of just over three inches when the car is parked. The same technology used to charge toothbrushes and newer smartphones is at work here, and power transfer reportedly occurs at an efficiency rate of about 85% while charging power is rated at 3.2 kW.

Deviating from center over the GroundPad was also a forethought in design, with lateral and longitudinal tolerances of just under six and three inches respectively. Taking things a step further, a precision approach is offered within the bird’s eye view 3D camera system when returning to the home field.

The video below was posted last September, but does an excellent job of explaining how the entire process works. The automotive landscape and mobility as a whole are both changing rapidly around us, but companies like BMW and Tesla alike are both big players in bringing cutting edge technology to the hands of consumers in attractive and practical forms. Things that seemed like far flung ideas at the start of the millennium are now part of our everyday routines, and tech like what’s available in the new Inductive Charging Station is just another step in the perennial forward march of society. Not to mention, the 2018 530e iPerformance sedan has starting MSRP identical to that of the base-model 530i, while the same is true of the xDrive variants.—Alex Tock

[Photos and video courtesy of BMW AG.]

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