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BMW launches wireless electric car charging system touted as convenient but inefficient

BMW is officially launching its wireless electric car charging system today. Starting now, customers can order a BMW 530e iPerformance with a factory-fitted system to work with BMW’s optional inductive charging system.

The option is touted as more “convenient” than charging with a cable, but it comes at a high cost: the actual cost, but more importantly – efficiency.

The German automaker describes the feature, which it calls ‘BMW Wireless Charging’:

“BMW Wireless Charging employs the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to devices such as mobile phones and electric toothbrushes to now also recharge the high-voltage batteries in electrified vehicles. The principal benefit here is the unrivalled ease of use, as drivers no longer need to hook up their plug-in hybrid car using a cable in order to replenish its energy reserves. Instead, as soon as the vehicle has been parked in the correct position above the inductive Charging Station, followed by a simple push of the Start/Stop button, the charging process is initiated. Once the battery is fully charged, the system switches off automatically.”

The inductive charging station called GroundPad can be installed in a garage or outside and it connects to the vehicle’s charging system over a distance of around eight centimetres through a magnetic field.

BMW says that it will also offer a service to install the GroundPad starting in Germany, but subsequently followed by “the UK, the US, Japan and China.”

The system has a charging power of 3.2 kW and “an efficiency rate of around 85%”, which BMW calls “very efficient.”

Electrek’s Take

Wireless charging systems are undoubtedly more convenient than plug-in systems, but how much more convenient and at what cost?

Forget the cost of the actual system, what BMW calls “very efficient” here is about 5% less efficient than most plug-in charging technology, which means that it will take 5% more electricity to charge the same vehicle.

That’s both costly and wasteful.

And for what? It literally takes me 5 seconds to plug in my electric car every day. 5 seconds for 5% less efficiency doesn’t seem like a good deal to me.

I am sure that BMW will still sell a few of those to customers who don’t understand the problem. A few people have told me in the past that “they don’t want an EV because they don’t want to bother with having to plug it in.”

That’s BMW’s answer to this lazy mindset, but I think education about how charging with a cable is actually not cumbersome at all and much more efficient would be a way better option – at least until wireless technology can close the efficiency gap.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

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