Transport Theory

Electric roadways would allow plug-in cars to charge on the go

Posting in Energy

Japanese researchers are working on electric roadways that could charge a car while it's in motion.

Electric cars currently in the market are limited by their range and charging times. But now researchers at Toyota Central R&D Labs and Toyohashi University of Technology think they may have come up with a solution that will allow electric cars to drive unlimited distances - electrified roadways.

While the idea of electrifying roadways has been mulled for decades -- previous efforts have included attempts to charge coils attached to a car through electrified coils placed on the road -- this technology would allow energy to enter a car through its tires (which makes far more sense considering it's unreasonable to expect coils in a moving car to perfectly align. Tires, on the other hand, have direct contact with the road).

Electrified metal plates buried under the streets would send energy via a radio frequency to a steel belt inside a car’s tires, as well as to a plate sitting above the tire, Fast Company reports.

The Toyohashi Newsletter says, "The source of energy from power lines is up-converted into radio frequency (RF) by high-speed inverters implanted along tracks in the road. The RF voltage is applied to a balanced metal track embedded under the surface of the road. The EV picks up the RF voltage via electrical capacitance between the metal and a steel belt installed inside of the tires of the EV."

While the tests have only been used on low voltages, researchers believe energy transfer onto a running automobile is feasible and can provide enough power to run a standard electric car. In the long run, the set-up would allow electric vehicles to use smaller battery packs as well, considering they could get their remaining power from the electrified highways.

The concept does raise some concerns about the expense and time that is required to dig up roads to install the infrastructure or from the dangers to the public caused by stepping on an electrified metal strip -- but a version of the the idea is currently being implemented at Boston’s Logan Airport, so we'll wait and see what the outcome is.

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Ami Cholia

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Ami Cholia has written for AltTransport, Inhabitat, The Huffington Post and Sunday Mid Day in India. She holds degrees from the University of Texas at Austin and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure