End to Refuelling? Electric Road Set to Recharge Vehicles as They Drive

Volvo, a Swedish vehicle manufacturer, plans to test an electric road that recharges vehicles’ batteries as they drive over it.

The road, which will initially be used to recharge buses, would use inductive charging technology to wirelessly charge vehicles as they drove over it, eliminating the need for downtime while a vehicle is plugged in.

The company plans to build a test road measuring between 300m and 500m in Gothenburg, Sweden, next year. It will be used to recharge a number of the city’s buses as they follow their normal route.

Power for the road will come from Gothenburg’s electricity grid, although it is quite possible that local electricity sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines, could be used if the technology was transferred to other, more remote areas.

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Inductive charging has previously been proposed as a solution to recharging electric vehicles as they drive, but this is the first time the technology will be put into practice.

The technology will require the buses to be fitted with a special charging system so that they can continuously charge as they drive, a move that will also be necessary for any electric cars that want to use the innovation, should it be rolled out after the trial.

Electric roads are one of many solutions that Volvo is looking at to further transport technology.

“We are working on both a broad and a deep basis to develop the technology of tomorrow,” explained Niklas Gustavsson, Volvo Group executive vice president of corporate sustainability and public affairs. “Electric roads are another important part of the puzzle in our aim of achieving transport solutions that will minimise the impact on the environment.”

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Road-based technology is on the increase, with a number of innovations announced in the past few years.

Solar Roadways, the technology that turns roads and car parks into giant solar panels to power nearby buildings or recharge stationary vehicles, was reported on by Factor back in March and has since generated considerable interest. The company is currently crowdfunding via Indiegogo with the hope of raising $1m.

There have also been a number of proposals relating to the automation of vehicles and roadside equipment, such as talking traffic lights, which are set to be trialled in Japan to reduce road rage.

Of course not all of these technologies can exist together. At present there is no way to combine inductive charging and solar roads, although the potential of such a combination is quite exciting.

No matter what technology prevails, however, one thing seems clear: the days of simple tarmac roads are definitely numbered.


Body images courtesy of Volvo Group.


Flying to the future: Star Wars-style hoverbike available to buy from 2017

A low altitude flying vehicle that bears a strong resemblance to the speeder bikes in the Star Wars franchise is being made available for sale from 2017.

Described by developer Aerofex as “a hovercraft that rides like a motorcycle”, the Aero-X is an offroad vehicle that floats up to 10ft (3m) in the air and can move at speeds up to 45 miles per hour (72km).

It can also be used on water, provided the rider forks out for the optional floatation pontoons.

According to the company, the bike is fairly easy to learn to ride; Aerofex believes it should only take a week to go from novice to pro rider.

 

The bike was originally previewed in 2012, prompting immense excitement from would-be hover bikers.

Many dreamed of using Aero-X on the daily commute, while others just wanted the bike for the sheer coolness.

But with a price tag of $85,000 – $5,000 of which is payable now in the form of a refundable deposit – only the very rich are going to be able to use the bike for off-road flying fun.

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However, if you work in right industry you might find yourself riding an Aero-X as part of your nine to five.

Aerofex reckons that the bike would be ideal for work such as surveying, search and rescue and border patrol, which is no surprise given the bike’s range and ability to provide impressive, far-reaching views of the surrounding area.

It could also be a major boon to farming, an industry that is keenly embracing technologies that speed up day-to-day tasks or improve output.

Aerofex has proposed that the bike be used to spread fertilizer and nutrients, by means of a special peripheral attached to the bike’s rear, and has suggested that it could also be used for ranching as a high-tech alternative to horses.

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While Aero-X is clearly going to be popular with those with money to burn, its long-term future is going to be in industry.

Aerofex has naturally cottoned on to this, and is keen to get the bike working for as many industries as possible.

To this end, the company has incorporated mounting points, power connectors and communications systems so that auxiliary equipment can be easily hooked up to the bike.

It is encouraging third-party developers to make use of these through the provision of an interface control document with connecting points detailed in full.

How many industries see the potential in Aero-X remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: you’ll be hard-pressed to find a cooler, more futuristic vehicle that has made it past the concept stage.


Images courtesy of Aerofex.