Electric roads – the throttle EVs need ?  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

Paul Budde has an interesting article at The Business Spectator on the "electric road" concept - where electric vehicles can be quickly recharged while they are on the move - Electric roads – the throttle EVs need.

The electric vehicle industry, long held back by consumer concerns over the capabilities of batteries and the logistics of refuelling, has received an unexpected boost from a group of scientists bunkered down in the Bear Lake Mountains, 130 kilometres north of Salt Lake City.

Researchers at the Energy Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University are working on a solution to shift the energy storage burden from electric cars to the road, which, if successful, will give the industry the throttle it so desperately needs.

According to the scientists, electric vehicles, or EVs, could pick up small amounts of electricity as they drive over charging pads buried under the asphalt that are connected to the electrical grid. The researchers say that a continuously available power supply would allow EVs to cut battery size by as much as 80 per cent, drastically reducing vehicle cost.

Moreover, it’s a solution that would also allay consumer and industry concerns about drivers’ ability to recharge electric vehicle batteries – something the Obama Administration is already working towards through a $5 million funding package to develop EV infrastructure including community recharging centres.

Famed inventor Nikola Tesla – the namesake of the California electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors – first discovered the principles of wireless charging, or inductive power transfer, in the late 19th Century. It works by creating an electromagnetic charging field that transfers energy to a receiving pad set to the same frequency.

Manufacturers are already marketing wireless charging pads for electric vehicles that can deliver a 5 kilowatt charge with 90 per cent efficiency from a distance of about 25 centimetres. There is also a trial application of electric roads – albeit at slow speeds and using very long charging pads – for buses at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, south of Seoul.

But researchers at Utah State University are thinking of something much more radical – charging at interstate speeds. However, such a plan requires several technical breakthroughs.

At 75 miles per hour (120kmph), the car would only stay on a pad for about 30 milliseconds. At that speed the pad embedded in the road would need to be turned on and off really quickly. The pads would also need to be able to signal to each other that a car is coming, and the car would need to communicate its need for a charge.

Additionally, electric roads will need to use much more sophisticated smart grids, as the grid the electric roads use will not only need to become more “self-aware,” but will also need to be capable of autonomously self-correcting against sags, surges, and the disruptive loads that electric vehicles will present.

No doubt these developments will take some time and will be expensive. However, the cost of electrified roads, estimated at $1.5 million to $2.5 million per lane mile, could be easily made up through charging a toll along the roadway.

In fact, charging a fee to recharge on the road could be just the fuel the industry needs.

2 comments

Anonymous   says 9:47 PM

Really smart - save money on batteries by forcing everyone to pay a toll for every mile they drive. Real smart.

You'll be paying for recharging batteries either way - this option doesn't force you to have smaller batteries, it just makes it more practical for those who choose to do so (so you aren't "forced" t pay a toll - its up to you if you choose to use the service)...

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