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With wireless power, charge your electric car while driving

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Researchers at Stanford design an electric highway that charges plug-in cars as they move.

While the adoption of electric cars is generally considered an important step for green transportation, many drivers are wary to buy a vehicle that might run out of power before a trip’s end. To eradicate this range anxiety, a team at Stanford has designed a system that allows electric car owners to charge their vehicles as they drive.

The Stanford charging system uses magnetic fields to wirelessly power cars, sending electric currents through a series of coils placed on both the vehicle and the road. The design would mean major changes to highways, but researchers say this is the ultimate goal.

“Our vision is that you’ll be able to drive onto any highway and charge your car,” said one of the study’s authors, Shanhui Fan, in a press release. “Large-scale deployment would involve revamping the entire highway system and could even have applications beyond transportation.”

The proposed project is not the first to employ magnetic resonance coupling—a process that occurs when two objects, such as the coils, exchange energy through magnetic fields. WiTricity, a company created by researchers at MIT, and HaloIPT, a small British firm acquired by Qualcomm last year, have also made use of the technology to charge cars without plugging into a power source.

Unlike its competitors, however, the Stanford team added metal plates to the basic coil design, allowing for a larger transmission of power that ultimately allows cars and trucks to charge on the go.

For now, the project is still in its beginning stages. Although it has proven successful in reliable mathematical simulations, it still needs to be tested in the laboratory and under actual driving conditions. In the meantime, electric car owners will simply have to stick to shorter journeys.

Images: NRMA New Cars/Flickr (Top); Sven Beiker, CARS/Stanford University (Side)

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Sarah Korones

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sarah Korones is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for Psychology Today and Boston's Weekly Dig. She holds a degree from Tufts University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure