By on August 16, 2015

M4 Motorway England, UK

The British government is continuing on with a study of inductive charging on England’s busy A roads a reality, reports the BBC (via Gizmodo).

Feasibility of the technology hasn’t been fully proven as of yet, but England is getting one step closer by tendering bids for off-road trials. If off-road trials are successful, you might be able to drive long distances across the UK without needing to stop to recharge. The trials are expected to take 18 months from 2016 to 2017.

Elon, you might soon lose your killer app.

The technology has been used in the past in England and elsewhere to provide electricity for public transportation fleets. In Milton Keynes, metal plates were installed in the road to inductively charge buses, but those vehicles must stop in order to receive an electrical top up.

The long-term plan to install the technology in public roads might come to a halt even if the technology itself is proven to work in off-road trials. The cost to implement it on British roads combined with advances in battery technology may negate its viability.

However, this does open up the possibility of a whole new class of vehicle — that of the battery-less EV — which would likely be much more efficient as less mass would need motivation. Also, just imagine how roomy it would make the autonomous pods of the future.

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37 Comments on “England Studying “Charge As You Drive” Inductive Charging Roads...”


  • avatar

    “However, this does open up the possibility of a whole new class of vehicle — that of the battery-less EV”

    I doubt it, unless every inch of road countrywide is a charger. It’s more likely you’d need LEAF-like battery range to be (almost) certain of making it to the next charging point.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    If they insist upon this silliness of putting steel in the roads I want my maglev car to go along with it.

    • 0 avatar

      They already put steel in a lot of roads.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        True, but it’s not a continuous circuit for the purposes of electrification or maglev

        • 0 avatar

          Also true, though I wonder if — when the roads are eventually reconstructed, because most are due right now — structural steel for concrete reinforcement and inductive charging could be brought together? I will admit I barely know how electricity actually works beyond a basic circuit.

          • 0 avatar
            jhefner

            Two big issues I see with it:

            *In order to transmit power over long distances with minimum losses, you use high voltages; hence the high tension power lines we have crossing the country. So either this system will have to use high voltages (always a fun thought to be inches from a hot high voltage source); or will require a booster station every so often.

            * Think of the power required to run one car at at time. Now think about dozens of cars, and perhaps an occassional truck as well. You are talking about a lot of power.

            These will be essance the high power lines you now see strung on towers overhead now buried in the road beneath you. Think of the radio interfence everything you pass underneath then; and concerns in the past of living close to high tension lines and cancer. Not excited about this future vision; not to mention the complexity of maintaining it compared to a conventional highway.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    Coming soon to California. Another cost be damned, green energy boondoggle.(see high speed rail) Along with the added advantage of screwing up traffic (even more) by ripping the roads up to install the equipment.
    Paid for with new gas taxes and federal a subsidized grant, so everyone can feel the pain.

  • avatar

    I don’t see autonomous cars for at least a decade, and more likely two or maybe three. And I’m not sure why someone might want to take a shared autonomous car from Boston to DC (a roundtrip I take several times a year by car) just to rent a car when you arrive.

    And for personal cars–there are something like 3.5-4 million miles of roads in the US, although without a dollar per mile installation cost I can’t figure out whether the cost would be reasonable, outlandish, or something in between.

    if the cost per mile is reasonable, it could bring EVs much faster than we might have to wait if they must depend on better battery technology.

    On the other hand, a country or major region dependent upon inducted charge for transportation could be brought to its knees if that charging system were sabotaged, or if all the electricity went off due to natural disaster or some such.

  • avatar
    Crazyman

    Inductive charging roads will never be a thing, too expensive and too inefficient (think of all the energy wasted as heat). I do however see potential for inductive charging parking spots, it’s a great perk and would allow parking lot owners to monetize their land better by charging a premium price for parking there and it would prevent potential damage to parking cables by not having exposed parking cables. Convenient for users, makes more money for owners, it’s absolutely a win-win if implemented correctly.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      “too expensive and too inefficient”

      This a million times over. The cost would be ridiculous, and the energy lost in the system would likely require the construction of a whole lot of power plants. Until we realize the dream of fusion power, the electrical demands alone are probably insurmountable. Even then, I’d hate to be paying the maintenance bill on inductive roads.

      I can’t see the technology as being seriously pursued without a whole lot of lobbyist seduction going on.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Seriusly. Seems like a charging lane with a conductive rail would be more sensible for on the go charging.

  • avatar
    wmba

    The general rule this past century has been to bring technology to the individual user rather than the other way around.

    Telegraph office to phone at home; cars replacing horse-drawn omnibuses for mass transportation; electric tramcars going the way of the dodo; TV instead of going to the movies; mainframe computers to PCs of all kinds including smartphones; cold fusion for individual homes instead of the electricity grid, er wait that didn’t happen – yet. Nevertheless, people like the general independence of having their own personal thing rather than relying on the drudgery of having to depend on a central source doling out the pleasure.

    Electricity, water and roads have evaded the single-user trend, except where impracticable. Now, of course we could rip up the roads and add inductive charging for a fleet of electrical mimsermobiles. It’s a technocrat’s dream.

    Usually ideas like this come to the fore in regions where the inhabitants have never experienced real winter weather. The difficulties never even enter their tiny minds – it’s outside their thought processes. The UK is pretty temperate. When vast snowstorms of 3 inches hit the place, everything stops. I’ve been there when an inch stopped the electric trains.

    Where the ground freezes, there is the probability that eventually the ground heaves when thawing occurs. Inductive charging works best when there is pretty close coupling of magnetic fields, so putting the supply a few feet down to prevent breakage is fundamentally useless.

    Then we look at the current state of the roads. Maintenance. What maintenance? They have trouble filling potholes and keeping bridges in order. Now add a giant electrical network and see what the maintenance is like as the years go by.

    There is all manner of things we “could” do societally with the technology we have. What seems to be missing is any common sense as to the practicability of any zany scheme that pops into the mind of the dreamers. Nope, let’s get some funding from the foppish bureaucrats/know-nothings in government, propose schemes like this idea that have not the slightest chance of becoming universal, and create a web page showing everyone else how brilliant we are.

    There’s so much of this pie-in-the sky stuff these days that people have been inundated with too much data, and lost the ability to discriminate between the practical and the outright silly. Perhaps it was always thus.

    • 0 avatar

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      “Perhaps it was always thus.”

      It has been. When I was growing up post-Arab Oil Embargo; OMNI magazine, Popular Science and other magazines regularly ran articles on giant airships; and some prototypes were actual built. There was also talk of a high speed underground train from New York to Los Angeles.

      In the years before that; one only needed to attend one of the World’s Fairs; where you would be shown the latest technology in displays like GM Futurama; which featured automated highways back in the 1950s.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurama_(New_York_World%27s_Fair)

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Fittingly the Brits are doing these Pythonesque trials. Buses having to stop and roost over the charge plates?

    Hell, I suppose you could also create an overhead wire system like electric trains use; probably a lot cheaper and certainly permitting of steady traffic flow.

    Just never reach up through the sunroof or in a convertible unless you want a whole new hairdo.

  • avatar
    stuki

    Infrastructure provided, continuous, charging, is _the_ killer app for BEVs. Absent that, fuel cells will likely “win” over batteries, as you’re unlikely ever to be able to push the volume of energy/second through a cable, as you can through a hose.

    It’s also a match made in heaven, as BEVs are very efficient in slow moving city/country driving, but much more energy intensive in high speed, freeway use. Having the infrastructure itself deliver energy both for instant motion, and to top up local-use batteries every time one “logs onto” a freeway, is a major game changer.

    It’s another one of those “why isn’t everyone doing this” obviousities that the Japanese hydrogen preference strongly hints are much more fundamentally difficult than it would immediately seem. Noone has more experience with electric induction, maglevs, consumer electronics changed with induction etc. than the Japanese electronics giants and the researchers associated with them. Noone has more cumulative experience with battery technology. And no nation would benefit more from a pure electric transportation infrastructure. That there still seem to be a push in the direction of hydrogen, of all things; has got to be at least a little bit disconcerting to the champions of BEVs.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> but much more energy intensive in high speed, freeway use.

      I seem to average 35 mph on freeways around Boston on my commutes. I don’t really have range problems with my EV. I made an 80 mile trip yesterday with about half the time on freeways and made it without stopping for a charge. We’ll have gone through 2 generations of battery technology by the time something like this gets deployed.

      >> That there still seem to be a push in the direction of hydrogen, of all things; has got to be at least a little bit disconcerting to the champions of BEVs.

      Not really. It’s already a failure. With reports of maintenance issues and downtime at the fueling stations and the 20 minute recovery time between fuelings it’s a doomed technology. Meanwhile, battery tech keeps improving and getting cheaper. Then again, that sexy Mirai styling could sway a few people I suppose.

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    Why dig up the entire freeway? My car spends much of its time stuck at traffic lights. Why not just put charging plates there at the same time as the inductive loops are installed which supposedly trigger the lights?

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    How does this scale up? It is not especially efficient in phones. I’ve had a couple now. My Nexus 6 will deplete the battery with GPS and the screen on if it is on an inductive charger. Additionally it gets really hot. It could be a range extender I can’t see it pushing a car.

  • avatar
    beastpilot

    ” which would likely be much more efficient as less mass would need motivation. Also, just imagine how roomy it would make the autonomous pods of the future.”

    Mass does not equal efficiency. A 747 is one of the most fuel efficent vehicles on the planet in terms of fuel per passenger mile.

    Efficiency on the highway is all aerodynamics, and in the city is all about getting your energy back from braking. You can easily have a very aerodynamic heavy vehicle, and of course electric and hybrid cars can use regenerative braking.

    Factor in the huge loss that inductive charging has and it’s hard to believe that these vehicles would actually use less energy than one with a battery on board.

    • 0 avatar
      Spike_in_Brisbane

      Your example does not really support your argument. A loaded 747 weighs about 400 tonnes and carries over 400 people. Less mass per person than your average car.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I wonder about the possible health effects of being in a high energy density field.

    • 0 avatar
      VCplayer

      Good point. Research is far from conclusive on the subject, but there is some suggestion EM fields effect human health in some interesting ways. You can actually try this yourself: Ground yourself the next time you have a long flight by keeping in contact with something metal connected to the plane. People claim to notice a pretty big difference in how they feel afterwards.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    They’d have to implement a “Charge You as You Drive” form of taxation to pay for this boondoggle.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Just give us more cheap simple NEMA 14-50 RV outlets instead of all of this expensive complicated crap. Many of us already carry portable EVSEs, so we don’t need to use the EVSE equipment that you typically see at L2 charging stations.

  • avatar
    shaker

    This would waste a lot of energy, and would require cars to be built specifically tuned to “couple” to the magnetic field – if you think that the differences in plug-in standards are a problem…

    It would make more sense to have individual pods that would run on existing rail beds, powered by the overhead wires. Just don’t get caught between to commuter trains.

    Better batteries; ultracapacitors for better braking energy recovery, more efficiency – more “Supercharger”-like stations (for emergencies/long trips).

    We hate public transit (even if it’s usable on our commute) because we don’t like/trust/tolerate our fellow citizens, thus, we’ll spend 1/3 of our income to avoid it; or come up with harebrained ideas like this.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Your last sentence is marvelous. Cars are security pods for when we have to go in-country.

      Any redolence of LBJ is deliberate.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Well, “marvelous” maybe, but incomplete.

        I should avoid inserting snippets of social commentary here, no matter how great the temptation – my take on many things spans the social/political spectrum, and would be a mixed-up-manifesto at best.

        I was referring to the undesired result, but not the myriad of mistakes that led to it.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    While they’re at it, they can put in runway lights for the flying cars.

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