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29 October 2010

Wireless charging promises open road for electric vehicles

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Charging pads in roads and driveways could extend range and reduce battery size for electric vehicles

The problems presented by the need to recharge electric vehicles could become a thing of the past, thanks to a new wireless charging technology which promises to recharge a car's battery while it is being driven.

Using an approach reminiscent of a giant Scalextric without the wires, New Zealand start-up HaloIPT and engineering giant Arup have developed a wireless charging system where cars simply position themselves above a charging pad rather than using a conventional plug.

Cars fitted with a receiving pad can be charged via a magnetic field created using an advanced version of the Inductive Power Transfer (IPT) technology commonly found in electric toothbrushes.

Electricity can be transferred over gaps as large as 400mm, meaning that recharging pads could feasibly be fitted beneath asphalt roads.

Poor parkers can position their vehicles 250mm either side of the pad, which would then power up the car overnight without drivers having to remember to plug it in.

According to HaloIPT, pilot systems have been successfully tested on buses in Italy and Holland and do not cost any more than the plug-in equivalent.

HaloIPT's chief executive Dr Anthony Thomson said the company now aims to build a commercial-scale demonstration system by 2012.

"This technology works in the bathroom, it works in the kitchen – we're saying it can work in your garage," he said at the UK launch of the technology last night.

However, he added that in the longer term the range of the magnetic field meant it would be possible to place a series of pads under roads, allowing electric vehicles to refuel while on the move.


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