Electric vehicles, as good as good at they are at conserving scarce resources, has a well-known shortcoming: they can only be driven short distances. For example, the Chevrolet Volt has only a maximum range of 80.5 kilometers (50 miles) on a single charge. And, while it is possible to use fossil fuel to back up the car’s electric system, that takes away the point of having an EV in the first place.
Now, researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Toyota Central Research and Development Labs have come up with the first mid-drive charging system for electric vehicles in the world. The idea is based on a similar mechanism that enables trains to run under overhead wires.
The system involves electrified metal plates that are buried under city roads that “up-convert” energy through a radio frequency to a steel belt placed inside a car’s tires. It also converts up-energy to a plate that sits above the tire.
At the moment, the system’s testing has only involved low voltages, but the researchers said that it could enable electric vehicles to weigh lesser than they are today. With the system in place, electric cars will need smaller battery packs if they are going to travel to and from electrified roads.
The current Chevrolet Volt’s battery weighs a massive 435 pounds, and a lighter battery is the smart way to go. While the idea is great, installing electrified metal plates in roads can be very costly and time consuming.