UK testing motorways that charge electric cars as they drive

By MoneyTimes

Aug 20, 2015 07:33 PM EDT

Charging an electric car in the United Kingdom may soon be as convenient as charging a phone.

The British government is testing later this year a motorway that enables electric cars to charge as they drive, using magnetic induction technology.

Feasibility study for this so-called electric motorway began some two years ago. It will be completed next month, followed by an 18-month test run off public roads.

If the trial is a success, the wireless power technology will be rolled out in real roads.

During the course of the trial, electric cars will be fitted with wireless charging technology that can convert electromagnetic fields from the surface of the motorway into electric power. The charging lane will have a communication system that allows it to detect an approaching car.

Currently, charging stations are installed along highways to power cars. There are also plug-in chargers for home use as well as wireless power charging pods. But all of them require the vehicle to stop.

With these electric motorways, car owners can travel longer distances without having to worry about running out of battery, as they can keep on charging while driving.

Highways England, a government-owned company managing England's core road network, has already spent £200,000 to determine the feasibility of installing charging lanes.

Over the next five years, the UK government is committing £500 million to make this technology available to the public.

"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," said Mike Wilson, government's chief highways engineer.

But there are some who don't believe installing charging roads is practical.

Dr. Paul Nieuwenhuis, the director of Cardiff Business School's Electric Vehicle Centre of Excellence, said battery technology is improving, and electric motorways might be unnecessary. "It sounds very ambitious to me. Cost will be the biggest issue and I'm not totally convinced it's worth it," Nieuwenhuis told the BBC.

This is not the first time that such technology has been tried. In South Korea, power cables have been installed underneath a 7.5-mile stretch of road, allowing shuttle buses to charge as they drive.

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