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For Electric Cars Without a Plug, Thank Tesla (the Scientist)

For Electric Cars Without a Plug, Thank Tesla (the Scientist)


Under the direction of Prof. Shanhui Fan, they are among those who have envisioned dynamic charging of a vehicle — sending power to a moving car using transmitting devices either along the roadway or embedded in it.

So far, the Stanford researchers have been able to send consistent power to a moving light bulb.

The team’s vision is very much blue-sky, Professor Fan allowed; he wouldn’t even guess a date for commercial real-world dynamic charging.

“We are in our labs pushing for higher power levels,” said Professor Fan, who drives a Prius. “Maybe we can get a prototype going in a few years.”

His team is not the only one tackling the problem of charging on the move. The chip-maker Qualcomm has its Halo DEVC (dynamic electric vehicle charging) project, which involves a 100-meter test track erected in Versailles, near Paris. Induction chargers inlaid in the roadway allow a vehicle — in this case, an electric Renault Kangoo van — to power up as it passes over. The track’s cost was subsidized by the European Commission.

Mr. Schneider of the S.A.E. said he was skeptical of on-the-fly charging. A proof of concept is one thing, but standardization is necessary.

“And why do you need it?” he asked. “Why do you need to tear up highways? Just because it sounds cool?” He added, “Before jumping to science fiction, well, a lot of things are possible.”

For him, one of the more relevant possibilities on the S.A.E.’s task force agenda is not driving.

“A car sits for between 90 to 95 percent of its life,” Mr. Schneider said. “If you can take advantage of the time it doesn’t move with a wireless-equipped parking space at home, where the customer doesn’t have to plug in but just park, then it changes the whole dynamic of the electric vehicle.”



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