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When Electric Racing Goes Wireless

By Bill Moore

Qualcomm's Senior Marketing Director in Europe, Joe Barrett brings EV World up-to-speed on the development of the firms Halo wireless charging technology and its role in the upcoming Formula E racing series starting in September 2014.

As strange as it may sound, Formula E racing in the future could easily run 6 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours without swapping cars or batteries. When it does happen, it won't be because of aluminum air batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. It will be because buried under the race course will be a series of coils that wirelessly energize the battery packs on a continuous, or nearly continuous basis despite the air gap that separates them from the belly of the open wheel cars whistling by overhead.

And by around the time that happens at some hazy point in the, hopefully, not-to-distant future, the buses and trams and private cars that brought the spectators to watch this exciting and now completely interactive motor sport, also are being charged by waves of magnetic energy flowing invisibly from below.

As futuristic as this scenario may sound, come September of this year, the world of motor sport racing will take its first step in that direct. There is a Chinese proverb that says a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so it seems appropriate that this particular 'journey' should begin in Beijing with the first Formula E race through the streets of China's capital. While the Formula E cars, like the one burning rubber above, won't be racing down a wireless track, past the photo of Chairman Mao overlooking Chang'an Boulevard, the safety cars, equipped with Qualcomm's Halo system, will be charged, almost magically, using those invisible magnetic fields.

As the first race draws ever closer in September, we asked Joe Barrett, the senior marketing director for Qualcomm Europe to share some insights into the background on how technology that many of us use daily to either charge our cellphones or tooth brushes came to occupy such a prominent role in this groundbreaking racing series; one that pits battery-powered, all-electric race cars against each other in the spirt of Formula 1.

In this 22-minute interview, conducted via Skype from Barrett's offices in England, we learn not only some of how the systems works, but importantly, many of the safety concerns that went into its engineering: like what happens if a small metal object lands atop the coils or a stray animal walks under a vehicle that's in the process of charging?What about pacemakers and cellphones? How big does the magnetic coil have to be and how wide can the air gap be between the charging plate and the parked vehicle be?

It'll be some time, I am sure, before we see 24-hour Le Mans-style endurance races among electric cars, but we take the first step toward that future this September. I only wish I could be there to see it happen.

Times Article Viewed: 7517
Originally published: 19 Jun 2014

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