LOGAN – Imagine being able to skip the gas station and inexpensively fuel your vehicle as you drive. A team of Utah State University researchers is trying to make that a reality by looking into the viability of installing transmitting coils beneath roadways that will wirelessly charge cars as they travel.
Last year, that same team of researchers developed a way to <a href=”http://www.cachevalleydaily.com/news/local/article_12bea898-52c5-11e3-9e5a-0019bb30f31a.html” target=”_blank”>wirelessly charge stationary electric vehicles</a>. The technology they developed enabled the vehicles to be charged while parked over a charging station.
That technology could be very useful for driving short distances around town, or for public transit buses that would be charged every time they pull into a bus stop, but for vehicles that travel long distances, it isn’t as convenient.
According to Regan Zane, one of the main researchers involved in the project, electric cars today have less than .1 percent market penetration countrywide. A significant factor in that is what Zane called range anxiety, worrying your vehicle won’t be able to reach your destination before it runs out of energy. Some electric cars can’t go more than 100 miles on a single charge.
“I can’t even really get to the airport from here reliably on a charge,” Zane said. “So that’s really the challenge. Whether I can charge it in my garage or not, the trouble is I just can’t get it as far as I need to go.”
Zane said with current technology, if electric cars were to increase their range to the point of eliminating range anxiety, it would mean having unreasonably large and prohibitively expensive batteries.
“We’ve got find a way to hold less energy in the car and somehow transfer energy as we are going along the trip,” he said.
Because of the challenges associated with this project, construction is scheduled to begin sometime in August on a new facility that features an oval roadway and other technologies to help solve the major technical issues.
“It’s also an ability to do research not only in wireless power of electric vehicles, but also in different aspects of really making electric vehicles cost-effective and a potential reality for us.” Zane said. “So that includes many aspects of the electric drivetrain and also vehicle automation. These are all things we’ll look at in this facility.”
Zane said that this building will be the only one of its kind in the country. The effects of this USU project could have major impacts on pollution, emissions and the cost of operating a vehicle, even if it means waiting a few decades to see the results.
“If we wrap this up at the interest levels we are anticipating, then we think the concepts could be pretty well proven within 10 years,” Zane said. “The automotive industry is generally slow moving so it will take some time to work this into the industry and then have consumers ultimately replacing their vehicles. So I would say this is a least in the 20 to 30 year time frame to start seeing noticeable penetration in the market.”