Are Electric Highways Possible in the U.S.?

Electric vehicles are facing several hurdles on the road to becoming a viable alternative to conventional, gasoline-powered cars. One of the biggest hurdles, apart from limited range, is charging time, as it takes several hours to fully charge an electric car’s battery, which is not very convenient. That’s why automakers that manufacture electric vehicles, as well as various tech companies, are trying to come up with a solution that would help reduce charging time and make these vehicles far more viable.

Some of those potential solutions include the wireless charging technology, an idea that was recently proposed by Swedish car maker Volvo, and designated charging lanes which could charge cars as they go.

The concept of wireless, or inductive charging has been around for a while, and this method is being used to charge small portable electric devices, such as cell phones. But, inductive charging technology can be used to charge electric cars’ batteries, as well. This idea is the basis of the TEV (Tracked Electric Vehicle) Project, an open source initiative for prefabricated roads that can power electric vehicles as they move along. The TEV Project was founded by Will Jones, a mechanical engineer and owner of Philadelphia Scientific, a company that designs industrial batteries, and some of its proposed solutions are expected to be implemented in the UK and in India in the near future.

The TEV concept has the potential to eliminate the need of stopping along the road to recharge your electric car. It involves specially designed roads that are supposed to be built alongside existing roads, equipped with electric tracks, where cars are controlled by a centralized computer system. Drivers would only have to enter their destination code, and the acceleration, the steering, and the braking will be done by the computer.

Although the TEV initiative is far from being widely adopted in the U.S., there are some similar projects that aim to bring so-called electric roads to the country. For example, there is the idea of a charging system developed by a team of engineers at Stanford University, which could make it possible for electric cars to recharge their batteries while in motion. Their system employs transmitter coils embedded in the road, which send electric currents that are received by several coils installed in electric cars. This inductive charging technology could be placed on dedicated charging lanes on highways, which would only be used by electric vehicles. However, integrating such a system into the existing traffic infrastructure would be a very expensive venture, and the government would obviously be hesitant about committing to such a project before some extensive research is done, primarily in terms of financial feasibility.

But, considering that highways in America are in a pretty poor condition, and they obviously need to be significantly improved in order to reduce congestion and enhance road safety, which requires a very heavy investment. The government has no choice but to build new highways or try and repair the current highway system, and it might decide to install this type of technology while trying to achieve that.

Jordan Perch is an automotive fanatic and “green cars” expert. He is a regular writer for a collaborative community for US drivers.

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