Indiana Leading the ‘Charge’ with Roads that Could Fuel Electric Vehicles While You Drive
The concept could be the solution to one of the biggest obstacles facing the electric vehicle industry if it becomes a reality.
The idea and manufacturing of electric vehicles have risen dramatically over the past several years as consumers look for an alternative to rising gas prices. While the technology continues to evolve and manufacturers are developing ways to increase the number of miles a vehicle can travel on a single charge, one of the biggest questions many consumers have, myself included, is, what do you do on a long road trip and you need to charge your vehicle? Right now, charging stations aren't as plentiful as gas stations, so what happens if your vehicle tells you you have 50 miles until the battery dies and there's no charging station anywhere within that range? If engineers at Purdue University, Cummins Diesel, and INDOT can make what they're working on reality, it won't matter.
Indiana Engineers Developing Roads that Charge Electric Vehicles While You Drive
According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center at the U.S. Department of Energy, the average distance an electric vehicle can travel is 100 miles on the low end to 400 miles on the high end, which is great if you primarily drive around whatever city you live in. Most electric vehicle owners have chargers installed at their houses, so they can plug them in when they're home and not need to worry about being stranded somewhere (assuming they remember to do so). But let's say my family and I want to take a trip to Florida for summer vacation. From my home in the Evansville area to Panama City Beach is around 620 miles. Of course, I could look for EV charging stations along the route and make a point to stop and charge up before we find ourselves out in the middle of nowhere with a dead battery, but that may require driving miles out of the way depending on where the charging stations are located in a city like Nashville, Tennessee or Birmingham, Alabama. Right now, with a gas-powered vehicle, I know a gas station is likely just a few miles down the road and right off the interstate if I need to fuel up.
What engineers at Purdue, Cummins, and INDOT are doing to solve that problem sounds like something straight out of a science fiction movie. They are currently developing technology that would be buried underneath the highway that will charge your car as you drive using wireless technology similar to how you can charge some smartphones.
The way I understand it, wires that have a constant charge of electricity running through them would be installed under the pavement of the road and the vehicles themselves would be equipped with a plate under the car that is connected to the battery. The plate conducts the electricity emanating from the road and uses it to charge the battery. This graphic from the Indiana Department of Transportation's Facebook page gives you the basic concept.
Engineers have been working on this since 2021, according to INDOT, and have already made big enough strides over that relatively short amount of time and have plans to field test it on a stretch of U.S. Highway 231/U.S. Highway 52 in West Lafayette at some point down the road (pun kind of intended).
As you can imagine, the concept has caught the attention of the engineering community and was recently featured on an episode of the web series, American Innovators produced by Consensus Digital Media. The 15-minute episode (below) is definitely worth the watch as it goes into much greater (and better) detail on how this incredibly fascinating idea works and how people way smarter than me are attempting to make it happen.
While they have made tremendous strides, there are many questions yet to be answered, some of which they address in the video. What they don't ask that I'm curious about is how will the power grid sustain the amount of electricity required to make this work on a large scale. And, how will they pay for it? Will the portion of our current state taxes that are used for road maintenance cover it? Or, will a tax increase be required? Could it be funded in some way by the business sector? Even though those questions aren't addressed in the show, I imagine they're being asked behind closed doors. And, if they're not now, they will be.
With that said, these are clearly highly intelligent people. With how they've been able to develop this idea to this point, I'm confident they'll figure out a way to answer those questions too.