Daimler to Test Inductive Charging on a Modified Mercedes A-Class E-CELL

Words Jim Davis | December 07, 2011
Inductive charging will allow the A-Class E-Cell to recharge without ever needing to be plugged in with a cable
Words Jim Davis December 07, 2011

Incredibly, 2012 is nearly upon us, and unlike the visions of the future dreamed up in the ’80’s, flying cars and routine jaunts around space have yet to materialize.  One thing that’s getting closer, however, is the idea of charging electric cars while driving, minus a cable – at least that is where we see Daimler’s latest project heading.

Called inductive charging, the concept is relatively straightforward.  An electric car is fitted with a special charging coil that then needs to be positioned over a charging coil in the ground, which will then automatically start the charging process without no need for cable contact.

“We are keen to find out how the inductive charging process proves in daily use,” says Herbert Kohler, head of e-drive & future mobility in the Research and Advance Development department at Daimler AG. “We have already demonstrated the essential feasibility of the technology. The experience in day-to-day use will now provide important pointers for the further course of development. A number of technical and financial issues also need to be resolved before we can really assess the marketability of this technology.”

The electric car will be deployed in March 2012 in the project “Effizienzhaus-Plus mit Elektromobilität”, which was inaugurated in Berlin Wednesday by Federal Chancellor Dr. Angela Merkel and Dr. Peter Ramsauer, Member of the Bundestag and Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs.

The “Effizienzhaus-Plus mit Elektromobilität” uses cutting-edge technology to create an energy-efficient house that will generate more electricity than it needs, leaving a surplus of energy behind. This surplus electricity can then be used to recharge battery-powered electric vehicles, in this case, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL. In essence turing your home into your very own gas station – clearly BP will not be happy about this.

The entire building has been designed along energy-efficient lines, seamlessly incorporating the area of electric mobility. Both the inductive and the cable-based charging devices are harmonically integrated in the house’s architecture, for example. A family of four will live at the house on an experimental basis for 15 months, beginning in March 2012. During their stay at the house they will use various electric vehicles to explore and demonstrate how a new generation of buildings and electric mobility interact in daily life. Apart from the Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL with inductive charging option, Daimler AG will be providing the “Effizienzhaus-Plus mit Elektromobilität” project from the start in March 2012 with two other battery-powered electric vehicles for around three months: the second-generation smart fortwo electric drive and the smart ebike. The family will thus have a broad spectrum of battery-powered local emission-free electric vehicles from Daimler at its disposal to cover the most diverse uses. From the two-seater tailored perfectly to urban needs through the 5-seater family car to the electric bike which opens the door to electric mobility without any need for a driving licence. Daimler will also attend to installation of the necessary charging infrastructure at the house, providing a wallbox for conductive charging with a cable and a charging coil for inductive charging in the carport. Alternatively, the family will also be able to charge all the vehicles at public charging stations or by plugging them into a standard domestic power outlet.

In the end, the project “Effizienzhaus-Plus mit Elektromobilität” will hopefully show that sustainable living and driving is possible without compromising on one’s quality of life. Scientific evaluation of the data on usage of the vehicle which are collected in the course of the project may additionally provide important insights into customers’ wishes – and show how electric cars can become yet more sustainable and at the same time more comfortable and convenient in the future.

Charging without a cable

In addition to charging with a cable, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL to be deployed in this project can also be charged inductively. This involves non-contact transmission of the charging current by means of an electromagnetic field. For this purpose, both the vehicle and the parking space at the energy-efficient house are fitted with corresponding coils. A special display system helps the driver to manoeuvre the vehicle into the ideal position over the charging coil.

In cooperation with Conductix-Wampfler and Röchling Automotive KG, Daimler has already developed a prototype version of this technology and demonstrated its functional effectiveness in a project sponsored by the Federal Ministry of the Environment. The technology’s suitability for everyday use is now to be sounded out thoroughly in the course of the practical trial.

A perfect match: energy-efficient house and electric vehicle in coordinated design

In order to highlight the close functional relationship between house and vehicle, a special edition has been developed for the “Effizienzhaus-Plus” project in close consultation between the Mercedes-Benz Design department and “Effizienzhaus-Plus” architect Prof. Werner Sobek. In keeping with the design and colour concept for the house, white and natural tones are predominant in the exterior and interior design of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class E-CELL and the second-generation smart fortwo electric drive. A specially developed pearl coat in platinum white metallic lends the vehicles a strong presence and reflects heat, thereby helping to keep the interior cool. The combined use of natural textiles such as wool, linen and nappa leather provides for an attractive contrast.

The coordinated design means that the family will feel totally at home in the cars, thus communicating the concept of integrated sustainable home living and motoring on a visual and an emotional level.