Newswise — Hybrid cars and all-electric vehicles may ease consumers’ concerns about contributing to pollution and climate change, but they substitute a new source of worry: range anxiety. This modern misgiving stems from the batteries that power these vehicles, which can’t yet hold very much charge. The all-electric Nissan Leaf, for example, can go only about 100 miles before its battery needs to be recharged, a process which typically takes about 8 hours. Even though most people drive less than 30 miles per day and can easily recharge their cars in their garages at night, there’s still the fear of taking a long drive and running out of battery power on the road, far from home and other charging stations.
At KAIST, South Korea’s premier technology university, researchers are working on a futuristic solution to this problem: gear embedded in roadways that can recharge cars as they drive along. Recent advances in wireless power transmission allow for the efficient transfer of power from embedded power lines to receivers mounted on the underside of vehicles. Charging an electric car as it rumbles down the highway wouldn’t just put an end to range anxiety, it would also allow carmakers to reduce the size and weight of the battery within the vehicle.
KAIST researchers have already demonstrated this technology on an electric tram that makes the rounds at Seoul Grand Park, and are currently working on a series of trams, buses, and tractors that may be used in South Korea’s parks, airports, and seaports. This article explains the technical challenges that researchers still face in commercializing wireless power transmission systems, and describes the breakthroughs that may put drivers on the road to an all-electric future.
Contact: Philip E. Ross, 212-419-7562, [email protected]. For a faxed copy of the article ("Charging Up the Road," by Seungyoung Ahn, Nam Pyo Suh, and Dong-Ho Cho (IEEE Spectrum, April 2013) or to arrange an interview, contact: Nancy T. Hantman, 212-419-7561, [email protected].