We’ve written before about the potential promise of inductive road surfaces, which allow electric cars to wirelessly recharge as they drive over them – but now they’re one step closer to becoming a reality in the UK.
The UK government has set up an 18-month off-road trial for these so-called “electric motorways”, which work through a technology called SMFIR (shaped magnetic field in resonance). Both the car and the road needs to use a special coil that generates a magnetic field able to carry an electric charge.
The idea, of course, is that the limits imposed by electric cars’ batteries become, well, less limiting if they’re constantly being topped up as they’re driven. And, hey presto, there’s one less reason not to buy an electric car.
The government wants to get more ultra-low emissions vehicles onto Britain’s roads, and has committed £500 million over the next five years to “stay at the forefront” of this technology. It’s also promised to install electric car charging points every 20 miles along motorways. If the trial proves a success it could be followed by on-road trials.
But some aren’t convinced SMFIR technology is the way to go. Dr Paul Nieuwenhuis of Cardiff Business School’s Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence told the BBC, “It sounds very ambitious to me. Cost will be the biggest issue and I’m not totally convinced it’s worth it. Battery technology is increasing – if you look at what Tesla has achieved in recent years, it keeps adding more range to the battery technology roughly every six months. So, it’s not clear there’s even a need for this.”
So, while we know that the technology does work – one South Korean city uses it to charge its electric buses – it may be that the sheer cost of installing SMFIR technology in roads and existing electric vehicles could be its main obstacle.
Image credit: Ian Britton