This is a Game Changer!
The UK government has started trials of a brand new road surface that charges your car as you drive, a notion that will radically alter the way we view electric cars in the future.
For the longest time we have had electric cars. Ferdinand Porsche’s early efforts were in fact electric, but the development of the car has been hindered by range anxiety, also known as the fear of running out of juice in the middle of nowhere, miles from any re-charging station. However, if the new road surface being trialled in the UK finds wider use, that sort of range anxiety will be a thing of the past. Battery technology has thus far limited the development of the electric car, with historically the need for big lead-filled batteries and, more recently, the more compact but not quite good enough Li-ion battery technology being the only real alternative. Even with improved battery technology, the speed of recharge (at least an hour for most current models with less than 100-kilometre range) would stop most of us considering an electric vehicle.
Highways England, the government organisation responsible for road infrastructure maintenance, is beginning tests later this year. A select number of cars will be fitted with the requisite wireless charging technology, and a test road will be built to show how smaller sub-stations, AC/AC converters, and power transfer loops can provide inductive charging built into the road itself.
The exact technology to be used is still unconfirmed and we trust that we will not see an electrified tram system being utilised, but more information will be forthcoming when a contractor is appointed. The aim is to simulate motorway driving conditions as closely as possible whilst providing at least some charge to the vehicle, extending the range of any vehicle packed with the technology.
“Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on England’s motorways and major A roads,” Highways England’s chief highways engineer, Mike Wilson, said in a press statement. “The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country.” If you like reading press releases, here’s one from Highways England.
It will still be some time before drivers in the UK can take advantage of the technology as the trials are expected to last for at least 18 months before on-road testing begins. Highways England will continue in this time to set up plug-in points every 48 kilometres along the motorway network as a separate initiative.
The tests come after a feasibility study looked into how dynamic battery charging could solve the problem of electric vehicles running out of juice, as well as reduce fuel emissions and cut down on fuel costs for drivers at the same time. With the European Union imposing fines for countries that don’t meet emission targets, encouraging electric cars onto the road would make a lot of financial sense for the UK government.