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BMW to offer wireless charging for 530e plug-in, but US must wait

Certification requirements means Europe will get these decently-quick PHEV chargers before the US does.

BMW

Wireless charging is, for the most part, still something that requires an aftermarket solution. But BMW will offer its own setup starting with the 5 Series in 2018.

The 2018 BMW 530e plug-in hybrid will be able to wirelessly charge its battery using a BMW-branded induction pad. It can be installed in the open or under cover. Once it's connected to power, the 530e will position itself over the pad such that a current can transmit wirelessly from pad to vehicle.

You can thank electromagnetic induction for this trick little setup. An induction coil in the pad creates an alternating electromagnetic field. The car parks atop that first coil and that field then creates an electric current in a second coil in the car, which is used to charge the battery. Science!

It's pretty elegant for being, you know, a pad that sits on the ground.

BMW

The wireless charging pad will permit a charge rate of up to 3.2 kW. That's only slightly less powerful than BMW's i Wallbox, which provides 3.7 kW charging. It should take about 3.5 hours to wirelessly charge the 530e's 9.2-kWh battery, as opposed to 3 hours flat using BMW's hardwired solution.

It's not due to hit the market until 2018, and while BMW wasn't willing to confirm available markets when it originally launched, it has now confirmed that it will be available in both the US and Europe. Europe will get it first because, according to The Drive, the chargers require certification through UL (Underwriters Laboratories) before they can be sold in the US.

BMW hasn't yet discussed pricing, but for comparison's sake, BMW's wallboxes can cost up to $1,000 each, not counting any sort of government incentive.

BMW's wireless charging system couldn't come at a better time. Its primary competitor, Mercedes-Benz, intends to unveil its own wireless charging solution for the S560e plug-in hybrid variant of the S-Class flagship sedan. That should happen in 2018, as well, but we haven't heard much about it.

Update, September 26: This story was originally published on May 12, 2017. It has been updated with new information regarding US market availability.