Let’s face it .. electric vehicles have one big serious drawback: cables. You can’t go far in them and when you do you need to grapple with some serpentine cable to get energy back into the car. Green it might be, convenient it certainly ain’t.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just drive to work and know your car would still be fully charged when you got there? You’d have to do nothing else .. no plugging in, no battery drops, no nothing. You wouldn’t even have to stop at a gas station. Bye bye cable, bye bye pumps : hello freedom!
This isn’t some photovoltaic wet dream of solar efficiency or rehash of energy recovery systems. This is inductive power transfer (IPT) and its being used to turn the next generation of highways into car charging arteries.
The principle behind IPT has been around for ages: it relies on magnetic fields to make electrons to move, thus creating an electric current without a physical connection. It’s how electric toothbrushes and a whole host of other everyday objects get charged up without dangerous open connectors.
The theory of charging electric vehicles this way has also been mooted for years, but no ones managed to make it commercially viable … until now.
HaloIPT is a New Zealand startup whose major investors include the engineering giant Arup. Their solution is simple: two pads, one on the bottom of the car, one under the tarmac, and when the car is over the pad it automatically charges.
Voilà! No cables, no battery drops, no nothing. Simply install the pads on your driveway or office parking spaces, and your electric vehicle can charge whatever the weather in a safe and electrocution-risk-free environment.
But wait a sec, didn’t I mention car charging arteries? Indeed I did, because this is where HaloIPT’s vision starts to take off.
As highways undergo normal maintenance, why not install the pads under the road surface while you’re at it? Many roads already have an electricity infrastructure for street lighting etc; with an upgrade it could easily support the pads (up to 125A is thought to be sufficient).
This way, as the HaloIPT website puts it, “[when] you drive, the pad underneath your electric car picks up charge – safely, reliably – from pads embedded in the road. Every time you pass over a pad, the battery receives a fresh top-up.”
Now you’ve got to admit it, that’s neat!
HaloIPT are currently calling for early adopters to put the system through its paces, although sadly this is limited to the UK and New Zealand only. To take part go to HaloIPT – Projects and click on “Get Involved”.
A full commercial scale demonstration of the technology is planned for 2012.
Picture Credit: Motorway A73 by night by mauricekoop under Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives License.
Chris is a seasoned sustainability journalist focusing on business, finance and clean technology. His writing's been carried by a number of highly respected publishers, including The Guardian, The Washington Post and Scientific American. You can follow him on twitter as @britesprite, where he's one of Mashable's top green tweeters and Fast Company's CSR thought leaders. Alternatively you can follow him to the shops... but that would be boring.