What If Electric Cars Could Charge Without Plugs?

MIT researchers developed a technique for wireless charging for years ago. Now it could be used for electric cars.

Four years ago, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology developed a technique for charging batteries without wires that could free gadget afficionados from the tyranny of wires. Now, Scientific American reports, some researchers are considering how that technology could be applied to largest of all consumer gadgets—electric vehicles.

Wireless car charging offers the tantalizing prospect of lifting the burden of charging from the consumer. If a car can charge without a wire, an EV driver can park and rush to a meeting without pausing to plug in. Wireless charging also means cars may be able to charge while they're moving.

Plug-in electric cars are starting to venture out onto the road on a regular basis, and car companies are working hard to reassure potential owners that EVs have long enough ranges for the vast majority of drivers. But any cell phone owner knows that having your gadget work "most of the time" is not good enough. It’s those hectic days when normal routines are abandoned that a phone’s battery will give out right when it’s needed most. And that's even more problematic for your car than your phone.

The basic principle of wireless charging involves using two coils—one in the charger and one in the object-to-be-charged—to induce magnetic fields. In most commercial wireless products on the market today, the charging object has to be practically touching the charger. But WiTricity, the company that’s working with the auto industry, has technology that can charge over longer distances. Chargers could live in the roofs of parking garages, in the ground, or at bus stops. They could be installed along the side of the road for constant, on-the-go charging.

Considering the hubbub about the health effects of cell phones on the human brain, it’s fair to assume that the specter of a magnetic field shadowing every inch of American road space would draw out consumer paranoia. And right now, this technology is little more than an idea: the projects that Scientific American found are all prototypes, not ready-for-market models. And wireless charging is not particularly practical at the moment: cars can only move about 18 inches away from the charger before the magic stops.

If this technology does move into the real world, it will require infrastructure anywhere EVs want to go. That means it’s not a bad option for buses, as one researcher envisions, because transit systems already have an network of bus stops in place. Planning for cars will take more work, and there are competing options using existing technology. But one thing is clear: Pretty soon, plugging in won't be a necessity for EV drivers.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user spDuchamp

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

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She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

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Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

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