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.