Wireless Charging Is Incredibly Inefficient and a Big Waste of Energy

We may consume a lot more power if wireless becomes the norm

iphone on a wireless charging stand
Our wireless charging future may not be what we were promised.
Daniel Korpai / Unsplash

After I bought an iPhone 11, I was very excited to begin my wireless charging experience.

But my experience hasn’t been as good (or as fast) as a traditional wired connection, and any wireless portable charger I’ve used has been a hassle.

A report by the tech site OneZero (along with iFixit) essentially backs this up: The inefficiencies of wireless charging are so bad, widespread adoption of this tech could require the work of dozens of new power plants around the world.

Right now a lot of energy gets lost as heat when you plop your phone down on those wireless coils (and more so if you don’t align your device correctly). Author Eric Ravenscraft suggests wireless charging could use as much as 47 percent more power to charge your phone. As well, the charging pads he tested also utilized an additional amount of power while not in use.

As Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit, told OneZero:

I think in terms of power consumption, for me worrying about how much I’m paying for electricity, I don’t think it’s a factor. If all of a sudden, the 3 billion[-plus] smartphones that are in use, if all of them take 50% more power to charge, that adds up to a big amount. So it’s a society-wide issue, not a personal issue.

Potential solutions? The author suggests designing phones to disable wireless charging if their coils aren’t aligned or having chargers hold phones to align properly. Tech companies could still offer wired charging as an option. Or the brands could off-set this additional power consumption by becoming more efficient and less resource draining in other areas.

Apple seems to be a company that’s taking notice of the inefficiencies. Leaked designs of the iPhone 12 suggest the addition of small magnets to the back of the phone, which may help align the device to a wireless charger. As well, technology does improve other time — by the time wireless becomes more of an everyday standard, it might close the gap with wired charging.

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