A small-scale electric vehicle has been used to prove the feasibility of a new approach to powering electrical engines. Researchers led by Takashi Ohira at Toyohashi University of Technology have successfully demonstrated for the first time the ability to power electric cars using under-road metal tracks.

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Electric cars provide a number of advantages over those with traditional combustion engines, most notably their high energy efficiency, low noise and no emissions. However, they are yet to be widely adopted because their performance is limited – the continuous running distance of current electrical engines is short, and it takes a long time to recharge them. Furthermore, the batteries are large and expensive.

The new approach uses a concept based on electric trains, whereby the power source is external as with overhead power cables. However, as a safer solution, the researchers proposed a metal track embedded under the surface of the road. Energy from power lines would be channelled into the track, and would then be transferred to electric car engines via a steel belt installed in the tyres of the vehicle.

Using low-power experiments, the team has optimised the mechanics and demonstrated the feasibility of the system. By increasing the energy transfer to supply greater power, it could be implemented on main roads so that small on-board batteries would be sufficient to reach these main roads. This would make electric cars more practical, enabling their advantages to be fully exploited.

For further information, contact:

Prof. Takashi Ohira

Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan

Email: ohira@tut.jp