One of the problems with being on the cutting edge of electric car technology is you're not as sure of being able to find a filling station as all the petrol-burning drivers around you. If a new road surface being trialled in the UK finds wider use, that sort of 'range anxiety' could be gone for good - the roads actually charge your car as you drive.
Highways England, the government organisation responsible for road infrastructure maintenance, is beginning tests later this year. A select number of cars will be fitted with the requisite wireless charging technology, and a test road will be built to show how smaller sub-stations, AC/AC converters, and power transfer loops can provide inductive charging built into the road itself.
The exact details of the technology and how it works won't be confirmed until a contractor is appointed to set up the test route, but the aim will be to simulate motorway conditions as closely as possible. It's not yet clear how much of a charge the tarmac is going to provide, but it would certainly increase the amount of time cars could last between full charges at home or a designated charging station.
"Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on England’s motorways and major A roads," Highways England chief highways engineer, Mike Wilson, said in a press statement. "The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country."
It might take some time before drivers in England can take advantage of the new technology - the trials are expected to last 18 months, and then on-road testing can begin. Electric car charging points won't be dismissed completely, however, and Highways England has said it's committed to installing plug-in facilities every 48 km along the motorway network.
The tests come after a feasibility study looking into how dynamic battery charging could solve the problem of electric vehicles running out of juice, as well as reduce fuel emissions and cut down on fuel costs for drivers at the same time. With the European Union imposing fines for countries that don't meet emission targets, encouraging electric cars onto the road would make a lot of financial sense for the UK government.
A similar idea is already in use in South Korea, where specially modified electric buses use Shaped Magnetic Field In Resonance technology built into the road surface to receive a charge as they move along.