Could Electric Roads Quell Range Anxiety?

Despite progress in battery technology, range anxiety is very real, at least when it comes to pure EVs. A Scottish father-daughter team may have a solution.

Will Jones and his daughter are behind the Tracked Electric Vehicle (TEV) project, which is committed to building roads where electric cars can recharge their batteries via a metal strip as they drive. The idea is that drivers won’t need to worry about running out of charge, since the car will be constantly recharging as they drive. Even if the vehicle fleet shifts to autonomous cars, those vehicles, too, could be recharged as they drive by such a road.

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According to Bloomberg, infrastructure companies are starting to take notice, and TEV has even won an award for being the best invention in the industry.

“It’s a magical thing,” said Jones. Jones holds many energy-related patents co-founded Philadelphia Scientific LLC, which makes batteries, in addition to TEV. “If you achieve direct contact, energy density for battery-electric cars goes from inadequate to infinite.”

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Jones and TEV are hoping to build their first trial roads next year. The initial costs are expected to range between $1.2 million and $1.8 million per mile, which is cheaper than what a conventional highway would cost. Still, given that the U.S. has 164,000 miles of federal highway miles alone, it’s estimated that it would cost as much as $295 billion to replace just the federal highways with the new tech. Last year, the Federal Highway Administration asked for $49 billion for infrastructure maintenance and repair.

Most research into improving electric-car range focuses on improving batteries’ ability to hold a charge for longer and/or the implementation of more charging stations – there are currently about 160,000 of those in the world’s largest markets for EVs.

TEV is looking to work on its concept at Newcastle University in England. The company is discussing the possibility of funding over the next two years with the university, through a grant that would be partially financed by Innovate U.K., which is a government agency.