Life Cycle Analysis and Optimization of Wireless Charging Technology to Enhance Sustainability of Electric and Autonomous Vehicle Fleets
The transportation sector is undergoing a major transformation. Emerging technologies play indispensable roles in driving this mobility shift, including vehicle electrification, connection, and automation. Among them, wireless power transfer (WPT) technology, or commonly known as wireless charging technology, is in the spotlight in recent years for its applicability in charging electric vehicles (EVs). On one hand, WPT for EVs can solve some of the key challenges in EV development, by: (1) reducing range anxiety of EV owners by allowing “charging while driving”; and (2) downsizing the EV battery while still fulfilling the same trip distance. More en-route wireless charging opportunities result in battery downsizing, which reduces the high EV price and vehicle weight and improves fuel economy. On the other hand, WPT infrastructure deployment is expensive and resource-intensive, and results in significant economic, environmental, and energy burdens, which can offset these benefits. This research aims to develop and apply a life cycle analysis and optimization framework to examine the role of wireless charging technology in driving sustainable mobility. This research highlights the technology trade-offs and bridges the gap between technology development and deployment by establishing an integrated life cycle assessment and life cycle cost (LCA-LCC) model framework to characterize and evaluate the economic, environmental, and energy performance of WPT EV systems vs. conventional plug-in charging EV systems. Life cycle optimization (LCO) techniques are used to improve the life cycle performance of WPT EV fleets. Based on case studies, this research draws observations and conditions under which wireless charging technology has potential to improve life cycle environmental, energy, and economic performance of electric vehicle fleets. This study begins with developing LCA-LCC and LCO models to evaluate stationary wireless power transfer (SWPT) for transit bus systems. Based on a case study of Ann Arbor bus systems, the wirelessly charged battery can be downsized to 27–44% of a plug-in charged battery, resulting in vehicle lightweighting and fuel economy improvement in the use phase that cancels out the burdens of large-scale infrastructure. Optimal siting strategies of WPT bus charging stations reduced life cycle costs, greenhouse gases (GHG), and energy by up to 13%, 8%, and 8%, respectively, compared to extreme cases of “no charger at any bus stop” and “chargers at every stop”. Next, the LCA-LCC and LCO model framework is applied to evaluate the economic, energy, and environmental feasibility of dynamic wireless power transfer (DWPT) for charging passenger cars on highways and urban roadways. A case study of Washtenaw County indicates that optimal deployment of DWPT electrifying up to about 3% of total roadway lane-miles reduces life cycle GHG emissions and energy by up to 9.0% and 6.8%, respectively, and enables downsizing of the EV battery capacity by up to 48% compared to the non-DWPT scenarios and boosts EV market penetration to around 50% of all vehicles in 20 years. Finally, synergies of WPT and autonomous driving technologies in enhancing sustainable mobility are demonstrated using the LCA framework. Compared to a plug-in charging battery electric vehicle system, a wireless charging and shared automated battery electric vehicle (W+SABEV) system will pay back GHG emission burdens of additional infrastructure deployment within 5 years if the wireless charging utility factor is above 19%.