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Researchers charge cars with "remote magnetic gears"


October 31, 2012

A prototype of the remote magnetic gears system

A prototype of the remote magnetic gears system

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Wireless charging systems seem like an easy way to keep electric cars running. You just drive up to a charge point and let the system beam power to your battery without ever having to step out into the cold and rain. However, these systems require high-frequency electromagnetic fields that can interfere with electronics and pose potential health hazards. To keep the hands-free advantages of wireless, yet get rid of the high-frequency fields, physics professor Lorne Whitehead and his team at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed an electromechanical vehicle charger that uses “remote magnetic gears” instead of electrical coils.

The UBC system is remarkably simple. The remote magnetic gears are a pair of spinning magnets – one in the charging station and the other in the car. A motor spins the charging station magnet and by simple induction this causes the magnet in the car to spin as well. As the car magnet turns, it generates electricity and charges the battery.

By using magnets, the UBC team is able to deliver 3.3 kilowatts of power from the mains to the vehicle, but it does so at a frequency one hundred times lower than a conventional wireless charger. This eliminates any potentially hazardous fields and does not interfere with nearby electronic devices. The simplicity of the system also means that the vehicle and the charging point don’t need to be exactly aligned to work.

One of UBC's remote magnetic gears charging stations

UBC has installed four of the charging stations for use by specially modified campus vans. Test results show that the remote magnetic gears are over 90 percent efficient compared to a cable charge, and deliver a full charge in four hours.

“One of the major challenges of electric vehicles is the need to connect cords and sockets in often cramped conditions and in bad weather,” said David Woodson, Managing Director of UBC Building Operations. “Since we began testing the system, the feedback from drivers has been overwhelmingly positive – all they have to do is park the car and the charging begins automatically.”

Though the technology is currently being used in vehicles, the UBC team sees it as having broader applications for everything from mobile phones to pacemakers.

Source: UBC

About the Author
David Szondy David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past. All articles by David Szondy

Pretty sweet! Im going to run a conduit in the floor when I pour a new slab in my garage. Wishful thinking.


Now I'm confused. Don't these magnets connect by attraction/repulsion rather than inductance, in order to be called gears?

Bob Stuart

A great idea, and I bet one that will be used for any other situations where a gearwheel is needed, but cannot be used...

Edgar Castelo

It sounds like a stirring device used in a chem lab. But instead of causing a pill/paddle to spin in solution, it is attached to a generating device or is the internals to a generating device. Pretty slick, and 90% efficiency is not bad either.

Bruce H. Anderson

By examination it is a poor idea which burdens the vehicle with unnecessary substantial cost.

Think also of the cost to maintain the facility with a high field magnet where ferrous debris are common and the nursing vehicle is as likely as not to be bearing some of the debris with it like a great big electric bumblebee flying from charger to charger.

There is a reason why strong magnets are not commonly exposed in everyday activities. How is this? A disposal box of used hypodermic needle tips are accidentally dropped on the garage floor and two out of the wad of hundreds are launched by the spinning field at floor level and imbed themselves in Lorne Whiteheads anterior parts. We can let Lorne wax on about what Dark Matters might issue.

A proper, very low cost, safe and 100% coupled solution is staring the reader right in face.


No special preparations will have to be made for any solution to cableless vehicle charging.

Such systems will install simply on existing slabs or frames. Those that don't will lose in the marketplace.

By the way there is a permanent magnet rotor in each part of the system described in this article. The cost per charge point and per vehicle will knock your socks off especially when compared to the competition delivering equal or better performance with an order of magnitude less cost per vehicle.

$3000 that's what Plugless (Evantran) wants to save you the effort of using a plug for your electric car! Now the Plugless system is much cheaper to build then rotating permanent magnets so how much will the CANadian wireLess system cost? Well the CANLess system is likely a $5000 to $6000 system split evenly between vehicle and charge station.

SO for a two vehicle family or business this is a $10,000 proposition!


They have been doing this without spinning magnets for almost 100 yrs!! It's called inductive charging and can be bought by anyone already using 60Hz 'spinning' the electric instead of some wasteful motor spinning magnets.

Fact is it's just not that hard to just plug in instead at higher eff than either example.

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