While there are a lot of good things about electric cars, one of the biggest drawbacks is the heavy load of batteries they must carry. But students at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences are building a car that instead gets its power from the road. The power is delivered to the vehicle through cables embedded in the roadway using inductive charging, allowing a much lighter electric vehicle that does not need to haul a great mass of batteries.
There are companies proposing to charge electric vehicles without a plug, so why not take it a step further? Taking the batteries out of the vehicle lightens it considerably. These induction powered vehicles would be constrained in where they could travel, but that could be a benefit to cities that might want to sponsor such vehicles in order to limit access to crowded urban areas or provide small, automatic vehicles as an alternative to buses or other mass transit.
The work is still very developmental and preliminary. The vehicle only carries a single passenger. It has a top speed of only 50 kph (31 mph), and, for now, it operates only on a small, indoor test track. But, on the other hand, the entire vehicle only weighs 60 kg (132 lbs), a mere one-fifth the weight of just the batteries in the Nissan Leaf - 300 kilograms (660 pounds). Less battery weight allows lighter structure, smaller motors, and many other improvements to make a lighter vehicle.
There are certainly efficiency issues to be worked out with this approach, and the development of the infrastructure for this would be neither quick nor cheap to install. This is certainly the kind of thing that would work best in dense, urban areas, rather than for suburban sprawl. Investing billions of dollars into a road network for this technology is still a number of years off. However, this could be an important element for an automated transport network. Someday, you might get around in a city in a small vehicle, without the need for a monorail.
written by Fr. Peter, September 30, 2010
written by Roberto DePaschoal, October 01, 2010
written by Richelle, November 01, 2010
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