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If you had to name one of the biggest game-change moments that the electric vehicle could bring to the world, try this one:

Every prior attempt to electrify the car has assumed the vehicle would be the energy carrier. By comparison, the grid is much more efficient at moving energy from point A to point B, so if you can make dynamic charging safe and affordable, you are truly introducing something new.

That's the vision of Jeff Muhs, director of Strategy and Business Development for Utah State University's Energy Dynamics Laboratory (EDL), whom we spoke with at the 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS26) in Los Angeles recently. Dynamic charging is another way to say charging while a vehicle is moving by using in-road wireless charging units, something that USU has been working on for a while.

Most people believe that in-motion charging is inevitable.

For now, USU is focusing on stationary wireless charging and will launch an electric bus route later this summer in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah campus. The electric bus will travel along a mile-and-a-half route, stopping at either end for a few minutes to charge up. Using a bus at this stage makes sense as a way to test the technology because it's big, it travels along a fixed route and there is recharge time built into the schedule. An electric bus also helps reduce noise and emissions on campus, which is something the university wanted. USU's wireless charging team is also working on improving the space tolerance (making the charger work even if things are not perfectly aligned), the power levels (systems that are 20-50 kW instead of just 5-10 kW) and efficiencies.

Muhs said the general industry-wide timeline for wireless charging is to have prototypes out over the next 12-18 months. To move beyond that, one of the requirements for wider adoption of wireless charging is interoperability. The reason this is important is that, in two or three years, when more wireless-charging vehicles are driving about, it will be important to allow a manufacturer's in-car pad to work when it's parked on anyone's in-ground pad. "This is a little different than plug-in technology in that, in the case of plug-ins, you can just buy an adapter from one person's plug to another cord, so to speak," Muhs said. "With wireless, you can't really do that. You can't slide something different underneath a car. So that means the whole standards setting process, particularly as it related to interoperability, is very important." Very important, indeed.

Another important angle is safety. USU's system will be able to detect if someone throws something metal onto the pad – a vital trait because some metals that get caught between the pads could heat up and catch fire – or if an animal wanders onto the pad. The magnetic field isn't dangerous to a cat walking through, but if it decides to curl up and take a nap there, it could spell trouble.

But wait. If all it takes is a random dime rolling onto the pad to stop charging, how reliable is wireless charging overall? Muhs said the current solution is to have the car – or a manufacturer's wireless charging app – notify your smart phone that charging has stopped so you can go and see what the problem is. In a parking garage environment, perhaps the attendant would be responsible for investigating charge disruptions? These sorts of things need to be worked out. "It's a great example of the devil is in the details," he said. "The need for additional development work, particularly around safety."


So, these are the issues with stationary charging. Dynamic charging is even more difficult. Still, Muhs said there are various companies working on in-motion charging, but very few will talk about it right now. The basic outline is to have coils in the road every so often, probably more (i.e., closer together) on uphills. Muhs said that 20 kW seems to be the average power requirement needed to move an EV, to the in-road coils would need to provide more than that to the passing cars. Think of it this way, if the pads only put out 20 kW, you would need to have them in a continuous line down the road. If the pads put out 100 kW, some power moves the car and the extra juice charges the battery. The allow the pads to be spaced out, which reduces the infrastructure that you need to install.

At 70 miles per hour, of course, a car will only be over a pad for a split second; a few milliseconds, in fact. In that time, the in-ground pad needs to be able to sense the car, broadcast power and then turn off again. "It is a challenge," Muhs admitted, but added that all of the technologies involved are advancing to the point where, "most people believe that in-motion charging is inevitable."

There are people working on all of this aside from USU. There has been a small demonstration in Korea (pictured above) – Muhs called it "quasi in-motion" – and the DOE recently announced a funding opportunity call that hinted at some sort of static wireless charging in three years. "By putting that in the call, that suggests to me that they're thinking about it in the relatively near-term," he said. "Whenever they first started looking at wireless a couple of years ago, they were talking about beginning research in 2016-2017. That's already been shrunk to 2012. I'd hate to make too strong a stab at this, but I'd say within three to five years. And there may already be some of that going on that we just don't see."




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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 69 Comments
      Timo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wont work on highways, far far too expensive much like "solar road" idea. Put it in slow traffic intersections and stoplights where cars go couple a mile a hour speeds and that could extend commuting to infinite range in cities.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Timo
        Your calculations to demonstrate this, please. Oak Ridge put the cost at $800,000 per mile per carriageway. Exactly where have the mathematicians there gone wrong?
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          @Timo: Well at least you have now written a rationale, a faulty on,e but a rationale instead of simply prooviding a declaration de haut en bas. The flaw is of course that not all roads, or even all carriage ways on the roads, would need electrifying to hugely reduce, although not eliminate, and the savings on those if you are going to electrify transport more than pays for the work on the roads. I have not done the calculations for the US, as I live in the UK, but for the UK the 12,000 miles of trunk road, ie roads which connect everywhere half-way important to everywhere else, at an average of two carriageways each was, as many are just one tack each way although some are three, amounts to 48,000 miles times $800,000 which is a touch under $40 billion. Of course it is obvious that the cost does not have to be paid upfront, you could start with one track each way and so on, but the total cost over 10 years, ie a very fast rate of adaption, is $4 billion a year, which is a tiny amount compared to the oil imports that would be saved. Coming at it from another angle, to have good range you really need 80kwh batteries or so, but basing it on a conservative 60kwh at a very conservative $200kwh, each battery pack costs $12,000. The 12 kwh or so you might want for strictly local running around on the non-electric highway would cost you $2,400, saving $9,600 per vehicle. The UK light vehicle fleet is about 25 million vehicles, rounding the $9,600 to $10k the total saving is around $250 billion or so. The US is bigger, but you don't electrify every dirt track in Montana, and the figures are in the same ball park. US oil imports are around $1 billion a day, so massive savings by electrifying roads would be as trivial as for the UK. Economically, if they can hit their technological targets, it is a fantastic bargain. My opinion on the technology is worth about the same as that of my cat, but the guys at Oak Ridge who have brains coming out of their ears seem to think it is fine, so I am prepared to give them a chance.
          Dave
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          "The United States highway network consists of 4 million miles of roads and streets" http://www.nationalatlas.gov/transportation.html Low end estimate: If we only had two lane roads, and if $800,000 per mile worked for all roads: 4 million miles x $800,000 = $3,200,000,000,000 (three trillion dollars) Of course, we have 4, 6, and 8 lane roads, and fast, heavy traffic would require much more power than a typical country road, so I suspect the number would be massively larger.
          Timo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          I need coffee. Charger at every 150 miles is not the same as all road miles divided by 150. US land area covered completely by 75 mile radius circles requires around 200 chargers. $10k each would be two million, not 10-100. There would be a lot more of those obviously because they work as lure to drag customers in.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          "The bottom line for the US is around a year's worth of oil imports, or perhaps around $400 billion, would substantially eliminate most long distance petrol use and end range problems for electric cars" True... but there are MUCH cheaper ways to get off foreign oil imports... WITHOUT spending the entire amount we would have saved from oil imports. I have said it many times. WAY before a new infrastructure (either this monstrosity or a hydrogen highway) could be constructed... the following should be available: 200 mile range BEVs for short range. PHEVs (80 mile AER with 60HP gas engine) for long range passenger vehicles. Biofuels and Natural Gas for Heavy Duty operation. HFCVs for small and local niche operations (facility fleet). That would save us from any Oil Imports and keep domestic oil consumption below production and reverse U.S. Peak oil. And cost only a gradual, privately funded charging infrastructure to be needed as well as conversion costs for biofuel/NatGas vehicles. MUCH CHEAPER than huge infrastructure investments that require HUGE maintenance costs too.
          Timo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Building a road and maintaining it are two completely different things. That's the main difference of this compared to normal road. Road maintenance is cheap, I bet fixing and maintaining these charging pads is not. Increased cost of building those is a different matter, if you mean that 800k is the extra cost then that roughly doubles the building costs, which is far too much. Building a road from scratch is already expensive to do. There are approx half a million miles of road lanes (150k miles of roads) in US. 800k * 500M = 400 trillion dollars. That's about million / US person. US road maintenance and improvement budget is in ballpark of 50 billion so it would take a long long long time before this is available everywhere....unless you are willing to double or quadruple your taxes. Comparative cost of fast chargers at every 150 miles or so: 10-100 million depending of the size of the charging station to cover entire US (and that's something every roadside snack bar could do and can afford to do to lure people in). I don't see those charging highways happening with those figures. If you want to make that work you need to serve as many cars as possible at as small stretch of the road possible, and that is by putting those in slow intersections and stoplights. This can be commuter charging solution, but it is not long range driving solution.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          The bottom line for the US is around a year's worth of oil imports, or perhaps around $400 billion, would substantially eliminate most long distance petrol use and end range problems for electric cars,enabling them to be built light and cheap with only small batteries, so although local roads would not be electrified travel on them would still be mainly electric via batteries. It would be the most heavily travelled roads that would be electrified first, so the savings on oil should pay for the build as you go over ten years or whatever. Heavy traffic might require more power, but the same number of coils would be needed, and there would seem no reason why they should last any less long.
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      HEY DOMINICK!!! Our buddies over at Jalopnik (a fine website of diverging views) has an article on Natural Gas. Very in depth, and written in the humorous prose they are famous for: http://jalopnik.com/5911513/why-we-arent-driving-natural-gas-powered-cars Gorr may not be pleased....
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      America is having a hard time keeping it's roads up. It's interesting research but i have a feeling that the price tag will really prevent it from happening.
        Electron
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Seems to me if massive road resurfacing is necessary anyway those pads could be installed while they're at it without too much extra cost.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Electron
          " those pads could be installed while they're at it without too much extra cost" ??? Since when are coils, copper, etc... EVER going to be cheaper than straight asphalt?
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        It's necessary but the money to do the resurfacing is not there in the first place. There aren't many electric cars on the road, definitely not enough to justify the extra cost. There also needs to be a system that determines who is using it, in order to charge the right person the appropriate amount of $. Then you need some kind of wireless device on the car to facilitate this, that's going to cost you as well. There are also issues with which voltage/amperage will be used. Unless we have some explosive economic growth and govt suddenly has a surplus again ( yeah right.. ) or some major $ investor sees huge dollar signs in their eyes, i do have my doubts that we will see this in our lifetimes.
      Nick
      • 2 Years Ago
      Maybe cars stopped at the red light could get a zap of high voltage electricity through the road to replenish their batteries?
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just to re-state the basics where they aren't buried in the thread. For electric highways providing the technology works, the economics are fine, as you don't electrify all the roads or anything like that. You only need the main highways electrified, then you can run an electric car with a modest battery of perhaps 12 kwh or so fine, as that covers you on the local roads, and you have no range concerns as to go any distance you have an electric road. Even trucks would have large savings, as although they would not run on a system designed for cars, the power from them would sure reduce diesel consumption whilst cruising.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        No reasoned responses here, I note. Just if the truth hurts, downrate it. Half wits paradise. I still await a rational, numerical response from those who wish to proclaim that this is 'obviously' too expensive'.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          The burden of proof is on you, the person making the positive claim. When you finally show us your spreadsheet.... we can then critique it and show you all the extra costs you left out or where your calculations might be exaggerated.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 2 Years Ago
      buses could have it at stops. that might work a little. not cars
      • 2 Years Ago
      So ridiculous it's laughable. The Electromagnetic Field radiation would be so hazardous it would kill anyone within 50 feet who had a pacemaker - and probably make most other people nauseous. Why don't we just focus on the practical solutions that have already been proposed (like Better Place exchangeable battery packs) rather than funding every harebrained scheme thought up by an engineering undergrad. No offense meant kids, just try to think things through.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      The idea for moving charging is to group the chargers so that one controller deals with around 30 of them, and only part of the road has to be dug up, at intervals of around a mile. This holds the cost down to around $800,000 per mile per carriageway, and the undersurface nature of the installation obviously means that coins etc can't get caught in it in this application. I would be interested in seeing the calculations in detail from those who wish to dismiss this out of hand,so that we can share it with the mathematicians at Oak Ridge and numerous other research institutes engaged in this work and save them the bother. Put up or shut up time. Personally I don't know if it will work or not, although investigating it is certainly worthwhile if for no other reason than it most certainly will work in some applications such as charging stationary buses as is already done and has been for years in Italy, and improving that technology is worthwhile in itself. Whatever may be the case for the good ol' USA's ability to finance new infrastructure, they most certainly can in the likes of China, and for the more liberal minded of us providing for mobility for 1.3 billion people for starters sounds a worthwhile goal in itself, whatever problems the USA may have in keeping up.
        Joeviocoe
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        "I would be interested in seeing the calculations in detail from those who wish to dismiss this out of hand,so that we can share it with the mathematicians at Oak Ridge and numerous other research institutes engaged in this work and save them the bother. Put up or shut up time." Um... no, the burden of proof (economic viability) falls on the person making the claim. "Put up or shut"... to those making the claim that this is viable. Post a link to the Oak Ridge researchers that claim that this is economically feasible. Not just technologically doable.
      Dave D
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Most people believe that in-motion charging is inevitable." Wow, you guys really, REALLY got to share those drugs cause they must be good. We can't afford to patch potholes and half our bridges are rated as "poor"...or even worse shape and we're going to wire the whole road system? Man, you guys really do need to share those drugs because the rest of us could use a good escape from reality as well.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Wow! You learn a lot here! All those PhD's in physics, mathematics and engineering are wasting their time, and they should have just asked here to learn something! One wave of the arm from the comfort of their own couch and the super-genius's here can totally evaluate the whole thing, without the bother of all that tiresome mathematics and experimentation!
          Dave D
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          DaveMart, That is a really unrealistic argument. I've hired and managed dozens of PhD's in my time and they can be just as unrealistic as anyone else, perhaps even more so. It is very easy for them to fall in love with an elegant idea which has nothing to do with pragmatism in real life. Don't attribute magical properties to someone who spends their life in an ivory tower. They have the same flaws as other humans.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Dave, it is not people holding different opinions I object to, it is announcing a conclusion without offering any vestige of argument to back it up, based on what I can only assume to be a feeling of superior wisdom. If you have an argument, by all means present it, but don't simply go for the 'all good men and true' fallacy, where a revolutionary idea is dismissed simply on the basis of prejudice. The only bit I can tackle is the economic argument, and the economics are just fine if it performs as advertised. I doubt that the basic physics is faulty either. The real issue is surely how difficult is is to implement, and we must wait on testing to know that. I would most certainly dismiss any notion that this is a sure thing, but complete dismissal is surely at best premature.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          The economics are NOT "just fine", even if it performs as advertised.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        not sure it's drugs but it's something alright : )
        Nick
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Dave D
        Dave D America is not the center of the world, and there are countries out there willing to spend tens of billions to build the most advanced infrastructure possible.
          Dave D
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Nick
          Nick, Nobody said the US was the center of the world. We're just talking about them as an example of how much it would cost. I don't care if China does it, India does it, the US or even you pay for it personally and do it in your own back yard. Do you mind if we just use one example for the discussion to see what the cost are? Do I have your permission for that smartass?
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm a student at the U and have to say that I'm excited to see/use this bus, but then again I should keep that in mind when I gripe about tuition going up...
      • 2 Years Ago
      Yeah. Those Ph.Ds never know what they are talking about. There is just no way those charging pads would be put at stop lights or stop signs, and there is no way we can figure out how far to put them apart so the cars stopping at the light or sign could charge their battery. And there is no way we can put those pads beside the roads along interstates where the cars could pull over for a few minutes and charge their battery and get a drink of water or a hot beverage. We just do not have enough intelligent people in America to know how to do that and it will cost us more to do that than it does for us to support two worthless wars. And there is no way those Ph.Ds can figure out how to make those pads turn on and off when there is no vehicle close to them and make them animal and prankster proof. We just don't have the knowledge or the money to know how to do any of that. What a pathetic country we are.
        Dave D
        • 2 Years Ago
        James, They are not talking about pads on the side of the road to charge. That would be called a convenient fast charging station (which is a good idea by the way). They are talking about embedding it in highways as you drive over them and charging the car while you're rolling along at 70mph. Very different discussion. From a cost perspective, it would be much more reasonable to put them in the road in cities at stop lights, etc. They already bury piezoelectric sensors for traffic lights so adding this in that same area is more reasonable, more useful from a charge perspective and more cost effective. But in the urban case, you have to also balance this against whether people who charge at home and don't need them and businesses that will have them put into their parking lots to draw customers in. Many small businesses, like a coffee shop, are trying to find ways to draw customers in. We're already seeing restaurants starting to put them in for this reason. If they are down to a couple thousand dollars per unit as volume goes up, I can see small business doing this to pull in customers and keep them there. Each would pay for itself in months with extra business. You think they won't be lobbying to keep the community using their tax dollars to "compete with them" by putting in chargers at traffic lights? :-)
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          I can tell that "road electrification" is a special pet tech for you. Therefore, it will probably be nearly impossible for you to be dissuaded regardless of any facts presented. There is no way you can claim that on street charging infrastructure (Level 2 uses 3.3 Kw or higher) which even if you DO need to dig up miles of sidewalks, only need straight copper wires.... is somehow more expensive than Road Electrification that would require Coils of wire every few feet for miles and involved digging up Roads, not sidewalks which is VASTLY more expensive a project and requires traffic considerations too.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          "Where are your figures?" The burden of proof falls on you... or who ever claims it CAN be done, not the person claiming it can't.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          BTW To install on-street charging for the huge numbers of vehicles parked on the road in Bristol every one of the hundreds of miles in the road network will need to be dug up for the installation of the cables. The cost of road electrification is trivial in comparison.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          Where are your figures? I have shown the costs for electric highways to be reasonable and affordable providing they hit the cost targets they have given. You just declare that it will be too dear without any figures at all. I repeat that you do not need to electrify every road in the world, electrifying the main roads and using small batteries is fine. Show us your figures, if you wish to make an argument. What you have given so far has no backing at all.
          Joeviocoe
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          Oh, and forgot to include that these Road cables need to transfer over 25 KW of power (to keep a highway speed vehicle moving)... compared to Level 2 power levels of 3.3 Kw to 7 Kw. Lot bigger capacity, more difficulty installing, not a good solution. You continue to underestimate infrastructure costs in favor for simplicity on the end-user.. a classic fallacy. Which is why so many people favor Hydrogen. The cars are simply, and don't require any change from gasoline status quo. The Infrastructure? Oh, that's someone elses problem... so I will just believe whatever pie-in-the-sky claims of cheap infrastructure costs that the oil companies claim. Economics kills these ideas on arrival.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Dave D
          Internally here in Bristol, UK, I figure that something like a dozen miles of the main trunk roads would do fine, and the hundreds of roads with light traffic outside people's houses and so on in no way would need electrifying. Too expensive? I don't think so.
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      HEY DOMINICK! This one will make Gorr happy - it is on fuel cells. This article was referenced by the fine website, realclearenergy.org. http://sustainablebusinessforum.com/cm1701/57938/renewable-energy-fuel-cells-part-2-solid-oxide-comes-age
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