The car has come a long way since Carl Benz built the first gas-powered car in 1886. It started with a small buggy model, and over the years the car has continued to become faster, more efficient, and designed with safety as a top priority. Although automobiles are constantly evolving, our roads have remained virtually unchanged since Eisenhower created the federal highway system in the 1950s. As cars advance, we must think about innovating the infrastructure that supports them.
The future of transportation is electric. As of September 2019, more than 1.3 million electric vehicles (EVs) were on US roads, and this number is expected to increase to 18.7 million by 2030. Today, most vehicle charging happens at home. It’s cheap, convenient, and fits most people’s daily needs. However, if we want to make the full transition to electric vehicles, we must have sufficient infrastructure to support long road trips, ground shipping delivery services, and movement of goods across the country for a more sustainable supply chain. EV charging lanes have the potential to accelerate the realization of enduring electric transportation.
Wireless charging is at the forefront of innovation, and how it moves from testing facilities to public roads here in the United States is the next big question. There are two ways to transmit wireless energy to batteries, near and far field. Near field wireless technology is the technology already being deployed today in consumer projects familiar to most people. Electric toothbrushes charge on their stands, charging pads power phones, and our portable devices, and cars are beginning to be charged with new garage pads. With this technology, power is transferred by magnetic fields using inductive coupling between metal coils over a short distance. This technology has carried over into the first electric charging lanes. Companies including Elonroad and Electreon have been piloting EV charging lanes in Sweden (shown below) and Israel and have expressed plans to expand globally in the future. In 2018, The Ray became a member of SELECT (Sustainable Electrified Transportation Research Center), where transportation experts work towards developing technologies for a fully electrified transportation ecosystem. SELECT is testing its near field technology at a test track at Utah State University, and we’re excited to eventually implement it on a public US road.
Far field wireless power is a technology in the early stages of development. This technology uses microwaves that aim at the vehicle and charge it through the air. It also has the potential to have charging lanes without changing the current infrastructure. Some alternate uses for far field wireless power include wirelessly charging drones in the air and charging smart poles that emit Wi-Fi or cellular service.
As with all emerging technologies, there are many questions as the technology moves from the lab to the road. It is important to make sure that a technology is safe, cost feasible, and ready for infrastructure integration.
EV charging lanes are just one of the cutting edge technologies we’re talking about at The Ray. We receive many innovative ideas through our Suggest a Tech portal. Do you have an idea for the next technology demonstration on The Ray? We are always looking for new and exciting technologies that further our mission of zero carbon, zero death, and zero waste so let us know what is on your mind!