Electric vehicles’ single drawback could be solved entirely by one innovation, not simply wireless inductive charging, but embedding these devices in the roadways.
Wait, we’ve already seen wireless inductive charging for electric vehicles, even electric buses, with the pads embedded in various spots on the bus route. That makes sense on a bus route, because the bus is always in the same places on the route for certain periods of time. Every time the bus stops for the driver’s break for a few minutes, or to pick up and drop off passengers at a certain stop, the bus’ onboard battery pack is recharged without any interaction on the part of the driver. Being recharged wirelessly and regularly on the same route also results in smaller battery size requirement, which saves money and weight and improves fuel economy.
A bus company in the UK is working out how to move these wireless inductive charging stations from their static positions to a more dynamic position, on a highway for example. The UK Highways Agency is looking to KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) trial in the city of Gumi, whose two electric buses run on a 12 km route. The buses run along a continuous wireless inductive charging circuit, which means the buses never have to charge at a fixed station. Rather, they charge on the move, and their minimal onboard lithium-ion battery is only used as a backup power source. KAIST estimates 85% efficiency with the setup.
Could such a continuous wireless inductive charging circuit eventually be adapted for regular electric vehicles travelling on the nation’s highways? For now, even a single lane for electric vehicles, equipped with inductive charging receivers, could significantly boost the range and capability of electric vehicles. A Nissan Leaf, for example, wouldn’t be limited by its 24 kWh / 75 mi range. On an electric highway, a Nissan Leaf driver wouldn’t have to stop to charge, relying on the battery pack only for the final leg between the highway and home or work.