Electric Roads: Could You Drive Coast to Coast Without Stopping?



by Matthew Van Dusen

We ask a lot of our cars – heat me, cool me, be silent, be comfy, be exciting and, increasingly, propel me without costly and polluting gasoline. It’s the latter request that confounds, since batteries, the most obvious replacements for gas, are heavy and have limited energy storage.

But what if the energy storage burden was shifted from our overworked cars to the road?

Researchers at the Energy Dynamics Laboratory at Utah State University are working on just such a solution, called electrified roads.

Electric vehicles, or EVs, could pick up small amounts of electricity as they drive over charging pads buried under the asphalt and connected to the electrical grid. Researchers say that a continuously available power supply would allow EVs to cut battery size as much as 80 percent, drastically reducing vehicle cost.


Nicola Tesla first proposed wireless energy transfer more than a century ago.

“Basically you get power directly from the grid to the motors as the car moves,” said Hunter Wu, a Utah State researcher who was recruited from The University of Auckland in New Zealand, where the technology was pioneered, to further develop the concept. “You can travel from the West Coast to the East Coast continuously without charging.”

Nicola Tesla first discovered the principles of wireless charging, or inductive power transfer, in the late 19th Century. It works by creating an electromagnetic charging field that transfers energy to a receiving pad set to the same frequency.

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