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BMW GroundPad Makes Wireless Vehicle Charging Possible

by Nathan Eddy
Staring in July, BMW will start production on a wireless charger called the GroundPad, designed for the high-voltage battery in its plug-in hybrid vehicles, starting with the 530e iPerformance sedan.

As part of the company's drive to simplify the experience of electric vehicles, the GroundPad uses the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to mobile phones and electric toothbrushes.

The technology allows electricity from the main supply to be transmitted to a vehicle's high-voltage battery without any cables when the vehicle is positioned over the base pad.

The pad could, for instance, be installed in the garage, allowing the charging process to start as soon as the vehicle has been parked in position -- without any further input from the driver.

The technology consists of the GroundPad and the CarPad, which is fixed to the underside of the vehicle, with the contactless transfer of energy between the GroundPad and CarPad conducted over a distance of around three inches.

The company claims the system, with a charging power of 3.2 kW, can fully juice up the high-voltage batteries in the 530e in less than four hours, and it makes ownership of electric vehicles more convenient.

The technology also helps the driver move into the correct parking position through a WiFi connection that establishes communication between the charging station and vehicle.

An overhead view of the car and its surroundings then appears in the control display with colored lines that help guide the driver while parking -- a graphic icon will show the driver when the correct parking position for inductive charging has been reached.

The company is making the wireless charging option available as a leasing-option for the 530e iPerformance, starting first in BMW's home country, followed by the UK, the US, Japan and China.

The GroundPad is also weather-proofed, which means it could also be installed outdoors -- all components that conduct electricity are protected from rain and snow, and driving over the GroundPad will not damage it, the company claims.

As soon as the vehicle has been parked in the correct position above the charging station, followed by a simple push of the Start/Stop button, the charging process is initiated, and once the battery is fully charged, the system switches off automatically.

It's all part of the company's larger smart car strategy -- BMW i is also associated with businesses like car-sharing service DriveNow, ChargeNow, which offers access to a network of charging points and ParkNow, which aids in the location, reservation and payment of parking spaces.

The BMW i brand is focused on connected mobility services, represented in 74 countries with the i3 electric car for urban areas, i8 plug-in hybrid sports car and plug-in hybrid iPerformance vehicles.

The company's Leipzig plant began building the fully electric i3 in 2013, and today three battery plants in Germany, the US and China supply local production of electrified vehicles with batteries.

Seven months after opening its battery factory in China, the BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) joint venture announced on May 28 that it has laid the foundation for a expansion of the plant.

At the High-Voltage Battery Centre Phase II, the joint venture said it plans produce more powerful batteries of the fifth-generation eDrive technology for the fully electric iX3 -- starting in 2020, the iX3 will be built at the neighboring BBA plant Dadong.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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