Electric cars are the future. They are here and they aren’t leaving. The problem is that they don’t really go very far, pure electrics that is, before you have to plug them in and wait. Or fire up the on-board generator and start paying for petro-energy again. What if that last pesky part could be completely and viably eliminated?
What if you could have an electric car that had unlimited distance? An electric car that did not need to be plugged in periodically, did not need to burn gas or some other get a tank full of hydrogen? Is this a pipe dream?
I think not. My eye wanders to two emerging technologies that, combined, can make this possible.
The first: inductive charging. Work has already been progressing toward wireless recharging of EV’s through magnetic induction. For example, Evatran, a company inVirginia, has developed a working prototype of a plugless induction charger for electric and hybrid vehicles. Simply drive a properly equipped EV onto the charging pad and walk away. This idea could turn parking lots into charging lots.
Now let’s look at what would happen if we put the inductive technology into the road beds themselves. Theoretically, one could charge a car while it was driving. This is the ultimate in autopian fantasy some would say. The first question would be how to wire that many charging pads into the amount of roadway surface to make the idea something other than a car-crack pipe fueled day dream.
The next piece of the puzzle
Solar Roadways. I know this has appeared in various news outlets from time to time, but it bears re-examination. The Solar Roadways project has developed a concept, that while sounding far fetched, is quite real: turn our roadways into solar cells. That’s right. Glass roads. Now that sounds truly nuts phrased that way. But the Solar Roadways project is real and is itself a combination of technologies including glass that can be engineered to be strong enough to carry successions of eighteen-wheelers.
There is enough road surface in the United States, upwards of 25,000 square miles, to generate enough power (if covered with solar cells) for the entire country and then some.
Now, we add to this concept the additional leavening of magnetic induction pads and liberal doses of imaginative engineering and viola! Perpetual EV’s that can drive unlimited distances.
I’m of course shortcutting the concept enormously. Like billing. Billing? Sure. This has to be paid for. The simplest approach would be automotive mileage billing to your account just the way a cell phone does. The billing software would be a bitch kitty to write, but models for the level of complexity already exist.
How many decades would this take? Your guess is as good as mine. Before this or some similar concept progresses all the way to fruition, maybe tires and wheels will finally (an unlamentedly) be obsoleted as a technology. But the imagining of it has to start somewhere. And I see the ripening of low-hanging fruit in the technology orchard…