When I am asked about the concept of electric vehicles, there are two questions that are always the first asked. Range and charge time. If I was discussing an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) with anyone, these two questions aren't high on the agenda.
After having driven electric vehicles for a number of years, I actually find the entire concept of stopping at a petrol station and going through the refuelling process very cumbersome.
I normally charge at home when it is convenient to me or incorporate charging stops on a trip to coincide with a meal or coffee break.
Despite the fact that current driving habits for Australians means that buying the lowest range EV on the market will deliver more range than 87 per cent of us need in a day, there are still range/charge anxiety issues when it comes to EVs. One of my EVs has a range of 632km but there will be models coming out within two years with a range of over 1000km.
Scientists are working on both charge times and range and I was of the belief that extended range was the magic ingredient that would see EV adoption take off. I was wrong.
I am now of the belief that neither range nor charge times will be the silver bullet. Whilst improvements in both will certainly make a difference, a new solution being trialled in several countries may shift the conversation entirely.
Most people would be familiar with wireless charging in modern smartphones. Using the principles of electromagnetic induction first discovered by Michael Faraday in 1831, a phone is placed on a wireless charging pad and, seemingly by magic, the phone starts to charge.
Charging a mobile phone is one thing. The battery in a phone is in the order of 3Ah. Can you charge a car wirelessly? The battery in an EV is in the order of 250Ah.
Already there are aftermarket charging pads that can be installed in your garage complete with an induction coil in the base of your car to allow wireless charging by simply driving your vehicle in to your garage over the charging pad.
But that isn't the exciting news. There is no reason that you need an induction coil to remain stationary in the magnetic field for wireless charging to work and it is that principle that I believe will see a surge in the uptake of EVs.
Several test sections of road are being constructed around the world with wireless charging built in.
Several test sections of road are being constructed around the world with wireless charging built in to the roadway. The concept is brilliant.
You drive to work over certain sections of roadway. Rather than decreasing your charge as you drive, you are actually charging your battery. At this stage the charging rate is in the vicinity of 400km of additional range per hour of driving.
In Sydney the average commute length is 20km. The average commute time is 50 minutes.
Imagine this. On your daily commute you take a "charging" section of road for 30 minutes of your commute. You use a total of 20km of your battery capacity but add 200km to your range!
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Not only would it mean that you never visited a petrol station or charging station again, you wouldn't even need to plug in at home.
Despite trials currently being conducted with this technology in the US; Norway; Sweden; South Korea and Italy, we still have some time before it is rolled out but this may well be the solution to our electric future.
Tell me if you like the idea of wireless charging while you drive at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mathew Dickerson is a technologist, futurist and host of the Tech Talk podcast.