Sunday, June 21, 2009

Testing Slot Cars for the Real World

Researchers in South Korea demonstrate an electric car that draws power from strips embedded in the road.

While entrepreneurs in the United States continue to pursue an infrastructure for charging electric cars, two research projects –- one in Korea, the other in Israel -– have recently offered intriguing ideas for putting blacktop itself to work in the service of electric cars.

In May, scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology demonstrated how induction strips and inverters embedded in a road can carry a current that recharges specially designed electric vehicles on the fly. The cars in such a system — aimed primarily at urban areas — would be equipped with compact batteries that have a 50-mile range.

The government of South Korea is investing heavily in the project, which was displayed at last month’s C-40 summit meeting in Seoul, a city of 10 million with serious traffic problems.

The Israeli project — a venture of the research and development firm Innowattech, which is linked to the Israel Institute of Technology, takes a slightly different tack. Piezoelectric ceramic tiles are embedded into the asphalt of a road, or the tracks of a rail line, and linked to modules that draw the electricity generated from the pressure exerted by passing vehicles.

Piezoelectric materials are commonly found in microelectronics, like watches and CD-ROMs, which rely on very small quantities of power.

From Green Inc.:

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