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I admit, I love keeping up with technology news.  There are breakthroughs, vaccines, and new technology being developed daily and if you're willing to follow you can still feel the kind of wonder we had as kids for what may be coming next.   This last month, Korea has put forward a starter test of what represents one of the most game changing technologies in the market.

Gumi (population 375,000) transformed a common section of road into something extraordinary: a wireless charging strip for electric vehicles. They may have reinvented the road.

On the 15-mile round-trip to and from the train station, Gumi’s electric buses are charged by electromagnetic fields generated by cables in the roadway. It’s a groundbreaking step for what engineers at nearby Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology (KAIST) call Online Electric Vehicles (OLEV), automobiles that recharge on the go.

Salon had no problem leading with the story (thankfully) but what Inductive roads really represent in the future is an endless track for vehicles.. no more stopping at a pump to get gas.  No stopping to plug in a vehicle to charge it.  Passive inductive charging represents a safe and consistent means to keep a vehicle moving and on the road.

Over the past few years, one of the chief complaints about electronic vehicles was their limited driving range.. imagine, if you will, a driving range of near infinite.. as long as it's on the road and can maintain charge, it keeps moving.

Better news is that more cities and places are adopting this idea:

Electric roads have emerged more or less simultaneously in a handful of different places. Utah State University designed a wirelessly charging bus last year with 90 percent electric transfer efficiency, slated to debut sometime this summer with a federal grant of $2.7 million. Bombardier’s Primove technology will be installed on a bus line in Mannheim next year with a $4.4 million grant from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport. Both of those projects, while they lack the mobile charging of Gumi’s buses, will distribute sufficient power at stop points along the route to maintain constant service.
This is the kind of project that has been written about for a while, but now, in Korea, it is being used in a live environment with real world drivers instead of just a one-off.

In 2010, Wired projected this kind of technology could change everything.

Entrepreneurs in New Zealand have developed a “power pad” capable of wirelessly charging an electric vehicle that’s parked on top of it. It could even charge cars on the go.

The folks at Halo IPT see the pads being installed in parking lots, garages and driveways to charge cars with cords. But they’ve got bigger things in mind. They’re betting the technology could be embedded in roads by 2020 to charge cars as they drive.

“Continuous induction charging, which we call dynamic in-motion charging, could be used to create ‘e-ways’ — motorways with dedicated charging lanes, set with charging pads spaced at regular intervals,” said Halo’s Helen Fitzhugh. “As the electric car drives over the pads, it picks up enough charge to ensure that the driver always leaves the e-way with more power than when he or she began the journey.”

Proposals have been done with everything from solar storage inductive charging plates at stop lights to interstates with charging plates as you go in a near continuous fashion, backed by combination of power sources.

In the end, this game-changing technology for the first time renders electric vehicles in a position to say: never fill your tank, don't worry about charging, and your ongoing cost for the vehicle is pennies without downtime.  

It may be a pipe dream now, especially in the era of sequester, but I can only dream of the day we do a 1950s style interstate highways act and spend real money on modernizing roadways with inductive charging capabilities.   In short order, the cost paradigm would shift completely, making electric vehicles so much more affordable that it would be unthinkable to buy anything else.   It would open the door for larger electric vehicles.  And because inductive charging would be calibrated for best use up to a set MPH, roadways would be safer by encouraging people to drive the speed limit to get the most out of their car.

Utah State University researchers have made a breakthrough in the quest to make in-road electric vehicle chargers practical for the real world, managing to wirelessly transmit 5 kilowatts of electricity across a 10-inch gap with 90% efficiency. That’s huge for a technology that has struggled to gain traction because of inefficiencies and difficulties bridging enough of a gap to make inductive chargers useful in highways, where chargers are a significant distance away from car batteries and need to deliver large amounts of electricity in a short period of time.

Imagine not only not needing to stop for gas on your cross-country trip, but not needing to stop to recharge either. In-highway EV chargers could theoretically replace all refueling stations near major public roads, replacing them with either a toll to help pay for the on-the-go charge or free electricity via solar-charging highways.
In addition, if EVs didn’t need to travel as far between charges, automakers could shrink battery pack size, reducing vehicle weight and cost without worrying about inadequate vehicle range, and leaving more room in your car for packing the fun stuff for your cross-country trek.
Solar charging highways.  Keep your oil, thank you very much.

The promise of the future is here.   But unfortunately, the political will to put an effort to use this kind of technology isn't.    Too bad.

Originally posted to tmservo433 on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 11:36 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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