While electric cars are fast gaining in popularity around the world as environmentally conscious consumers seek to diminish their carbon footprint, the development of accompanying infrastructure for charging such vehicles continues to lag behind their rapid uptake by the market.
This lack of charging infrastructure could hamper the use of electric cars in a number of circumstances – in particular any lengthier sojourns where running out of power remains a possible outcome.
A new technology that will soon be trialled in the UK could go a long way toward remedying this shortcoming, and could make electric car usage even more convenient than traditional fossil-fuelled vehicles by obviating the need to stop while recharging.
Government road maintenance organisation Highways England will build a test road installed with equipment that is capable of charging electric cars wirelessly as they traverse it.
The proposed test road will use small sub-stations, AC/DC converts or power transfer loops to restore the vigour of specially fitted electric cars through inductive charging.
According to chief highways engineer for Highways England, Mike Wilson, the deployment of wireless charging roads could provide a pivotal boost to the uptake of electric cars, including heavier cargo vehicles.
“Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever-increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on England’s motorways and major A roads,” he said. “The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England, and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country.”
The specific technology used for the trial will be confirmed once a contractor is selected, with the test road expected to simulate real world conditions as closely as possible. The initial trials will run for 18 months before on-road testing commences.
While electric car charging points are still a core part of Highways England’s future sustainability ambitions – with plans to build a plug-in centre every 48 kilometres along the road network, wireless recharging roads could still dramatically increase the distances that such vehicles can travel without stopping, curing users of some of the “range anxiety” which remains an issue at present.