A city in South Korea just turned on its first network of roads that power electric vehicles as they drive.
It sounds like science fiction, but it could be a look at the future of transportation.
As ExtremeTech’s Sebastian Anthony reports, the city of Gumi, South Korea has “electrified” 15 miles of road.
It works by transmitting electricity through cables about a foot below the road. By running power through the cables at a specific frequency, an electromagnetic field is generated.
A coil located underneath vehicles interacts with this field and generates a current, charging the vehicle’s batteries.
While the city is currently only using the technology with a few electric buses, it’s easy to see how the technology would completely change the logistics and cost of owning an electric vehicle.
It would ameliorate the range problems people have with electric cars. Currently, most electric cars that don’t also have a gasoline engine (like the Chevy Volt does) can only travel about 100 miles or less before they need to recharge. Many Americans don’t like the idea of having to make frequent stops to recharge on road trips, making range a dealbreaker.
With roads that charge your car as you drive, range is less of a factor. And if that’s the case, then batteries can become smaller and cheaper.
Forbes’ Bob Lutz estimates that the Chevy Volt’s battery costs about $US6,000. If Chevy could assume that drivers don’t need to worry about range, they could move to a cheaper battery with less capacity, like Toyota’s Prius Plug-In. That would shave several thousands of dollars off the price of the battery and make the car more profitable to produce.
An obvious point to bring up is the cost of rolling out electrified roads. The research study behind Gumi’s network concluded that only 5-15% of roads need to be electrified for the concept to be viable.
Basically, local and state governments would need to bury the necessary cables as they repave roads. While that’s easier said than done, it seems like an easier step than asking Americans to change their driving habits.