Future highways could charge electric vehicles

Tesla’s sporty all-electric car has Americans dreaming of EVs, photo by Mike Finnegan

Electric vehicles have captured the American imagination. There’s a secret hunger and fascination about the prospect of owning one, particularly as the prospect for more sporty models keep growing. But the issue of keeping them charged over longer distances has been a thorny one.  The best of them can only travel up to 100 miles before needing to recharge (with the exception of Tesla’s Roadster)

Researchers at Stanford University recently made a discovery related to wireless technology that could provide the solution.

The future of EV charging could lie in highway-integrated wireless-charging equipment. Researchers at Stanford believe a magnetic resonance system they’ve developed holds the key to offering a steady wireless charge to moving electric vehicles.

Highway integrated wireless technology would allow electric vehicles to charge continuously on the road

Building on earlier success at MIT in 2007 which used magnetic resonance to power a light bulb 6.5 feet (2 meters) away, Stanford’s researchers used computers to experiment with the optimal design for a system that could effectively transfer 10 kW to a moving car. Achieving a transfer efficiency of 97 percent – much higher than other wireless systems – they believe that by tweaking the design they will be able reach even higher efficiency.

There are currently around 5,500 electric charging stations across the United States.  There are a number of types of EV chargers in place or being designed, the majority of which don’t add significantly to long distance range.

Levels 1 and 2 charging stations only add from 5 to up to 20 miles (up to 32 km) of range to an EV’s battery in an hour, too small to make a real difference.

EV chargers like this one could be replaced by wireless charging technology, photo Courtesy of Michael Foster

Still in development, Level 3 chargers will be faster, charge at a higher voltage level and will take less than 30 minutes to reach a full charge. These would be installed at public charging stations.

Direct Current (DC) fast charging equipment is more practical, although few of these yet exist. This system allows electric vehicles to charge along heavy traffic corridors and at public stations and fully charge a depleted battery in less than 30 minutes. This option would add 60 to 80 miles of range to a light-duty PHEV or EV.

As exciting as this news is, this computer simulation is still only a step in the right direction. Researchers have filed a patent on the system and plan to move forward towards real-world driving tests.

The details are a bit daunting.

A series of electrically charged coils – which would continuously charge moving electrical vehicle batteries – would need to be embedded into the asphalt in roads. Not an insurmountable obstacle but definitely a challenging one. And a lot more effective than having to charge your electric vehicle overnight in your garage!

Still, it brings real possibilities to solving the distance issue and moving electric vehicles that much closer to being more widely adopted by American consumers.

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2 Responses

  1. I like the idea…you could also like provide wifi too maybe …check out Chevy volt charge station movie about 3 minutes…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoVQBAdFQg4&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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