A Unique Battery Charger—Really!

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A not-so-common integrated motor drive and battery charger for electric vehicles has been developed by researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Not only is this an incredible break-through from a technological point, but it is great news in terms of practicality.  When compared to current electric vehicle chargers, the charging time is shortened from eight hours to two.

The painstaking research to develop an optimal electric vehicle charger has resulted in a new power transfer method involving what is termed as a “rotating transformer”.   It should be noted, however, that the concept is still at a laboratory level since the price is cost-prohibitive at this point— a charger powerful enough to charge a vehicle in 10 minutes or less would hover at around $10,000.  Progress towards perfection, however, is continuing to forge ahead.

What The Researchers Were Thinking:

The on-going challenge in the minds of the researchers was how to minimize the size, weight and price of an on-board charger.   Researchers also realized that even though electric cars could, at least in theory, be a viable alternative to reduce carbon emissions, it remained unclear how this mode of transportation would realistically become a reality.  With that being said, optimistic scientists believe electric transportation will become much more embraced—trains, trams and plug-in hybrids—if solving the main problems with the battery and battery chargers is perfected and  affordable.

The Research Continued:

Since the electric motor and the inverter would not be used during the actual charging of the battery, Chalmers scientists dabbled with the possibility of incorporating the motor and inverter in the charger circuit, thereby, constructing some type of integrated motor and battery charger.   The intent was to use the motor and inverter in the charge circuit to increase the charging power while keeping the cost very affordable; and keeping everything very cost-effective was a major hurdle.

According to Saeid Haghbin, a head researcher at Chalmers, stated:  “Instead of having a separate isolated battery charger, we introduced a new concept for the power transfer, the rotating transfer, which was developed to transfer electric power while rotating.  The battery is charged through the transformer and a split-phase electric motor that was especially designed for this purpose.”

But Who Knows:

One shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of electric vehicles all together; and in fact, the University of Michigan has developed a breed of electric cars named the “ultimate electric vehicles”.  They run off a battery and likely require a magnum inverter or similar; however the concept is not nearly as complex as the research going on at Chlamers University.  The University of Michigan cars are run off a battery charged by sunlight—solar cars, plain and simple.

Solar cars are powered, almost exclusively, by direct solar energy using photovoltaic cells contained in solar panels.  Photovoltaic cells convert the sun’s energy into useable electric energy.  That electric energy fuels the battery to run the motor.  Some solar cars don’t use a battery, at all, but direct the sun’s energy straight to an electric motor.

Ford and Mazda conglomerates are testing the waters with solar hybrid cars in an on-going attempt to bypass gasoline dependency.

The idea of utilizing electric energy, whether solar or otherwise, to power the family car is an exciting thing to think about; and we’ll just have to wait and see where all the research will lead us.


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