Are Plugless Electric Vehicles the Future of Transportation?

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 12

Graphic of In-Ground Wireless Charging

Graphic of In-Ground Wireless Charging

Has the time come to cut the cord?

Electric Tram in Korea

Electric Tram in Korea

Should an electric vehicle be able to travel down the road endlessly, without the need to ever plug in?

That is the ultimate goal of a research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), which developed  an “on-line electric vehicle” (OLEV) system.  This is by no means a revolutionary idea, as other firms have toyed with and tested similar systems, but KAIST seems to be ahead of the game in this arena.

By embedding transmitting coils in roadways, electric vehicles, equipped with receiving coils, could constantly charge by driving down the road.  Range becomes a non-issue and the plug disappears forever.  At least in theory.

Implementation of such a system on a grand scale is prohibitively expensive and not practical, but the system works.

Research at KAIST began in 2009 KAIST with funding of $25 million.  In March 2010, an electric tram emerged at Seoul Grand Park that was recharged by coils embedded under the concrete.

Today, the tram continues to loop the park without a cord thanks to 370 meters of buried transmitting coils.  The transmitters send 62 kilowatts of juice to receiving coils on the underside of the tram.  The tram operator need only keep the tram aligned with the coils to maintain charge.

In theory this works and since the tram employs a battery that’s 40 percent the size and weight it would need if it couldn’t charge wirelessly, the tram is significantly cheaper to manufacture.

This system and setup makes perfect sense, but tearing up roads to embed transmitting coils is not financially viable.  However, if when roads were due for replacement, transmitting coils were installed, then bit by bit an OLEV system could become reality.  But we’re doubtful it ever will.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

12 responses to "Are Plugless Electric Vehicles the Future of Transportation?"

  1. David Murray says:

    Never, ever happen.. Sorry. The cost would be so expensive it would never be practical.

  2. bloggin says:

    Cars sit parked over 90% of the time. So clearly, plugless charging in parking spaces and in garages is the future. And thinking of the near future, cars will have at least 200 – 300 EV mile range, so the obsession with charging will dissipate also.

  3. Gene says:

    Wireless charging is a step backwards in that ~30% of the demand power is lost. Maybe it makes sense in an enclosed build in the winter that would otherwise be heated (thus the lost power would supplement the heating of the space), otherwise that power/heat is lost. Not as bad as heat and emission losses of ICUs, but still a step back from where we are today with EVs and wired plugin.

    I don’t pretend to know how to do so safely, reliably, and robustly, but a more-automated docking solution seems the more optimal path. Some improvement on grounding strips that some racing teams use in pit stops for example.

  4. Priusmaniac says:

    Another interesting possibility is capacitive charging. In that case you just need to conductors imbedded in the asphalt. Toyota is studying that system:
    http://www.tut.ac.jp/english/newsletter/archive/no3/tech_overtures/index.html

    1. staff says:

      Hi Priusmaniac-

      Not sure why this link got caught up in our filter, but its ok/you should be ok from now on. Sorry about the hold-up. As a rule, we don’t block any outgoing links. Can never have too much information. Thanks for the info.

      1. Priusmaniac says:

        Thanks, that’s great.

  5. Anthony says:

    Not for cars, but it makes a lot of sense for buses and trains.

  6. Priusmaniac says:

    Another interesting, on the go, system is capacitive charging.
    In that case you just need to conductors imbedded in the asphalt. Toyota is studying that system.

    There is a link to it on my old gridable hybrids site.

  7. kdawg says:

    Would be fun to line a race track w/these and have some EV’s go at it; sort of like slot cars.

  8. Herm says:

    It could be done if we had the will.. my idea to lower cost is to embed coil pods every 100m or so, the battery would be recharged in pulses as the car goes along.. so you only have to tear up a small section of the road. I think 18 wheelers would need more than 62kW.

    1. Priusmaniac says:

      They could also be imbedded in frequent stop places like at traffic lights (Handy since Electricity is supposed to be close-by for the traffic lights anyway).

  9. Ocean Railroader says:

    This would be good for rest areas or restaurants or parking meters I could pictures something like this for a lot of cities where you pay to park your car and drive over the charging spot and pay the meter to fill you up. The nice thing about this system is that most creeps are not going to dig up the street to mess around with the system unlike above ground wiring charging where they can cut wires and pull part boxes.