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ORNL researchers demonstrate wireless charging tech on autonomous shuttle

The technology is designed to make electric vehicles more convenient, charging them while they're driving over special charging pads.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn. — Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratories had a chance to show off some of their new charging technology on another piece of technology sweeping markets across the world — autonomous cars.

They connected a wireless and wired charging system to Olli, Local Motors' autonomous shuttle. The shuttle takes people across neighborhoods, campuses and urban centers without a driver, relying on autonomous driving technology.

The researchers' technology allowed the shuttle to charge hands-free while parked over a charging pad. It was also demonstrated on a light-duty SUV and a medium-duty delivery truck.

“Our wireless charging technology has matured enough that we can design and install equipment for a custom environment such as on the Olli, to give vehicle manufacturers the flexibility they need to accelerate toward a decarbonized, electrified transportation future,” said Madhu Chinthavali, a researcher.

The charging system is meant to allow vehicles to charge while they're in motion, as long as they are driving over the charging pads. It also allows power to flow in both directions, enabling cars to be used as a kind of energy storage.