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UK To Begin Electric Highway Trials

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Image of green lane on left side of multi-lane highway; sign reads "Electric re-charging lane."

The UK’s “electric highways” would charge electric cars as they go. Image courtesy Highways England

In a first of its kind, off-road trials of “electric highways” are scheduled to take place later this year in England, as the United Kingdom government writes. The special roadways will make it possible for people to drive ultra-low-emission vehicles for long distances without having to stop and charge the batteries, the UK government writes.

As Tim Chester writes for Mashable, unless you drive a Tesla and happen to live near a supercharging station (of which there are several in Colorado, as this blog has written), the batteries in electric vehicles do not let the cars go very far on a single charge. Gasoline-powered vehicles can run for more than 300 miles on a tank, whereas electric vehicles might get 260 miles to a charge, Chester notes.

Chester writes about the 18-month-long UK trials:

During the trials, vehicles will be fitted with wireless technology and special equipment will be installed beneath roads to replicate motorway conditions. Electric cables buried under the surface will generate electromagnetic fields, which will be picked up by a coil inside the device and converted into electricity.

The trials are designed to test whether the technology can work safely and effectively on major roads, the UK writes. Depending on the results of the trials, they may be followed by on-road trials, the UK writes. The UK is moving forward with the trials following a feasibility study that was commissioned by the government company Highway England, a new name for Highways Agency, which was created in 1994 to plan and build routes and to run existing roads for a safe and smooth experience, according to Highways England.

‘Exciting Possibilities’

On the UK government website, UK Transport Minister Andrew Jones says the possibility of charging electric vehicles while they are traveling offers “exciting possibilities.” The UK government is committing £500 over the next five years to fund the project, Jones said.

Highways England Chief Highways Engineer Mike Wilson said of the project:

‘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.’

Following the trials, Highways England also plans to install plug-in charging points every 20 miles along the country’s motorway network, UK writes. Although the UK is calling this a first of its kind, Chester writes that South Korea has a 7.5-mile stretch of road equipped with technology called Shaped Magnetic Field Resonance, which charges electric buses as they drive over it.

In a comment to the Mashable piece, George Kafantaris writes that one benefit to roads that charge vehicles driving on them is that they eliminate the need for heavy and expensive batteries, thus paving the way towards vehicles that are lighter and less expensive: “Car-charging roads are thus a win-win proposition any way you look at it — and the British will carve a niche for themselves early on.”


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