Battery electric vehicles, at least in the minds of many firmly affixed to their conventional vehicles, will always have a certain defect – limited range and recharging convenience.
Larger battery packs, such as that of the Tesla Model S 85 kWh, have increased range considerably. With 300 miles of range, range anxiety is not such a big deal. Still, charging is not super-convenient, requiring a few hours on a home or public-access LII 240 V electric vehicle charging station. A Tesla Supercharger can fully-charge in about an hour, but they are strategically-placed only for long-distance runs. On the other hand, what if an electric vehicle did not have to visit a charging station?
Do you remember that fun racing game, “Total Control Racing” (TCR), from the late-1970s and early 1980s? They were small ≈HO-sized cars that ran on a special track. These tiny electric vehicles did not carry battery packs, however. Instead, they were powered directly by electrified rails embedded in the track. What a great idea! Instead of carrying round heavy battery packs that had to be recharged when depleted, they were charged all the time, well, at least as long as they were on the track. Now, imagine if we scale up TCR about 87.1 times, because near-HO is about 1:87.1 scale.
That is the plan, in a nutshell, of a new installation at Utah State University, but far more scientific than my simplified illustration. Breaking ground on September 23, the Electric Vehicle and Roadway (EVR) Research Facility and Test Track will test the viability of electrified roadways and electric vehicles. The quarter-mile oval-shaped track will be equipped with wireless inductive charging, and properly-equipped electric vehicles charge on-the-go. In the end, EVR testing could point to significantly-reduced battery pack sizes for future electric vehicles and specialized electric-vehicle roadways. Reduced battery pack capacity would cut into “off-electric-road” range, but with enough juice to get home and to work, future electric vehicles would be less expensive by thousands of dollars.
Images © unloveablesteve / Utah State University