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Wireless charging roads for electric vehicles are being tested in Israel

Wireless charging could solve one of the biggest problems electric vehicles face when it comes to mass adoption – big, bulky and limited batteries

Electric vehicles are gaining significant popularity right now as compared to the past few years. Their evident benefits like sustainable transportation are not lost on anyone. Even then, there are quite a few hindrances that are preventing mass adoption of electric vehicles – the most significant one being the bulky, expensive and limited batteries. An idea to deal with that is making wireless charging roads, and that is exactly what Israel is doing in Tel Aviv. The Israeli government is working with ElectRoad, an Israeli startup, to implement this idea using under-pavement wireless charging technology.

Powering electric vehicles as they are travelling down the street is a good way to ensure that they never run out of juice. It essentially solves three major issues with electric vehicles – expense, bulk and range. With constant charging available, there would be no need for heavy, high-capacity batteries that have to sustain the vehicle over long distances. Instead, we could switch to cheaper, lighter batteries even on heavier vehicles. Setting this up would be a one-time investment that would pay off greatly in the long run.

Problems down the road

So far, ElectRoad has been able to implement this on an 80-foot test track in their own offices, but the demonstrations went well enough to warrant a $120,000 grant from the Israeli government to implement it on a half-mile stretch in Tel Aviv which is scheduled for launch in 2018. Further down the road, the government has plans to put this into action on an 11-mile shuttle route between the city of Eilat and Ramon International Airport. But, all of this faces the challenge of affordability. The solution needs to have a very feasible per-mile cost to be implemented at a large scale over the globe. Also, wireless charging isn’t as easy as it sounds. There could be alignment issues, low charging rates and other factors that weigh into their disadvantage.

Demonstration of wireless charge during parking. In Tokyo Motor Show 2011

How does it work

With this, Israel joins the ranks of quite a few countries exploring this technology across the globe. South Korea has implemented quite a few wireless charging routes. And some countries in Europe are also exploring the idea. The actual technology works due to the interference of two electromagnetic fields. Copper plates on the road are charged by inverters under the pavements. Similar plates under the bus interact with the field on the road and get charged. Currently, ElectRoad states that they can equip a one-kilometre stretch overnight with two tractors.

You might wonder why would a bus need an on-board battery after something like this universally implemented? One of the most evident reasons is a possible failure – a bus losing power mid-transit could lead to an accident. Another reason is acceleration beyond a certain speed might consume electricity at a rate faster than the charging rate. On the other hand, batteries themselves are getting cheaper every day, so do we really need this technology?

An infrastructure requirement

ElectRoad states that the true benefit of wireless charging roads is for complete infrastructural implementations. And additionally, the small battery on board is going to last really long if it is barely used on slow-moving vehicles like public-transit buses. And down the line, ElectRoad hopes to make it beneficial both ways – by using piezoelectric technology to generate electricity from braking. Overall, the equation between electric vehicles, sustainable energy sources like wind and solar power and the growing importance of public transport is undeniable.

Source: Scientific American

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee

A former tech-support desk jockey, you can find this individual delving deep into all things tech, fiction and food. Calling his sense of humour merely terrible would be a much better joke than what he usually makes.