Recharge Your Electric Car (or Hybrid) Though its Tires

BY Scott C. Benjamin / POSTED March 5, 2013
Hammerbrook - City can this really be true?
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Fisker Karma (Courtesy of Fisker Automotive) Fisker Karma (Courtesy of Fisker Automotive)

If this becomes a reality, all-electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrids stand to gain additional (or possibly unlimited?) driving range and a significant decrease in downtime for a battery recharge. As an added benefit, EV batteries could be much smaller in size (which means reduced weight, too) and far less expensive to replace when the time comes for a fresh start. Sounds good, right? But how do they do it?

According to a recent post at Green Car Congress, “Researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology (Japan) have demonstrated the transfer of electric power from wheels to power an electric car using dielectric coupling between a steel belt in a tire and a metal plate in a roadway.”

In other words, their intent is to embed wireless power transmitters into the road surface that continually feed power to the car’s battery while the vehicle is in motion. Apparently, no additional bolt-on power receiver is necessary as the steel belts inside the tires are sufficient to get the job done. And to demonstrate that this method of power transfer actually works, the researchers built a 1:32 scale EV model that was successfully powered through its tires and wheels.

On one hand, I think it would be great to drive an EV (or maybe even a flashy hybrid like the Fisker Karma) with unlimited range and no fear of running out of juice; but, on the other hand, it sounds prohibitively expensive. Retro-fitting the streets with wireless power transmitters sure sounds like an expensive construction job, doesn’t it? It also seems like there’s a lot that could potentially go wrong with an electrified roadway. I guess the older (and already tested) idea of overhead lines, similar to the ones used to power city buses in some areas, just wasn’t a practical solution.

So, what’s your opinion about this new EV charging method? Does it have legs?

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