The global auto industry is worth $2 trillion, but electric and hybrid cars currently make up less than one percent of that figure. However, experts are predicting an explosion in electric car adoption.
Even though they’ll be affordable, and they’ll keep the air cleaner, though, electric cars will still have one major limitation, and that’s…the fact that they’re electric. Electric things run on batteries, and if batteries don’t get recharged every so often, they die.
Electric roads, or the same technology in parking lots, could also work seamlessly with autonomous vehicles that can’t easily plug themselves into chargers. On highways, they could help power electric semi trucks that could otherwise take too long to charge. In crowded cities, they could eliminate the need for charging stations to take up space and make it easier for people without driveways to own electric cars. That’s especially true in China and India,
It will still be a while before electric cars can get zapped with infusions of charge while cruising down the highway, but that’s the future some energy experts envision.
“In theory, one could drive for an unlimited amount of time without having to stop to recharge,” said Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering and senior author of the study. “The hope is that you’ll be able to charge your electric car while you’re driving down the highway. A coil in the bottom of the vehicle could receive electricity from a series of coils connected to an electric current embedded in the road.”
Embedding power lines in roads would be a major infrastructure project, and it wouldn’t make sense to undertake it until electric car adoption was widespread—when, for example, electric cars accounted for at least 50 percent of total vehicles on the road, or more. If charging was easier, though, more drivers might choose to go electric.
Where today’s wireless charging requires you to park your phone on a charging pad, wireless charging technology from Ossia and rivals like Energous work over longer distances. Ossia hopes that in some situations, its technology will power devices directly so no batteries are needed at all.
“Ossia envisions a world powered without wires, batteries, changing pads or line-of-sight requirements operating much like Wi-Fi,” the company said in a statement.