Just imagine a road where electric cars can be recharged while in movement, wirelessly. The scene, that could be from a science fiction film, portrays a real experience in England. If successful, this novelty may be in the main English highways in eighteen months, and it will certainly be replicated by other countries as well. This innovation, of great disruptive potential, may enable the popularization of the electric cars, which are not pollutant, as an alternative to the vehicles endowed with exhaust systems.
Highways England, a state-owned company that controls the highways through which two-thirds of cargo shipment and one-third of the national traffic flows in England, has been carrying out this project. So, this is a serious talk, based on a project that consumed two years of study (see the report) and is fed by a 500-million-pound budget. The technological option was for the DWTP (Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer) system, which will involve the installation of magnetic fields underneath roads that will connect with receivers installed in the electric vehicle, as in wireless nets, recharging its batteries. The company’s target, as well as the commitment of the English government, is to reduce CO2 emissions in 80% up to 2050. The electric car stands out as one of the solutions to that issue.
To change the market choice from fuel to electricity moved vehicles may prove as difficult as to take off the bone from a big dog’s mouth. Even the innovative concept expert, Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard, is skeptical about the possibility of substituting conventional for electric cars, mainly because of the price. In his opinion, the innovation is most likely to happen at market edges. For example, youngsters using electric cars to go to school or to drive in the neighborhood. This niche would not represent competition, but rather the start of a new consumers’ market.
The English initiative bets on a different outcome for this story. This raises the “chicken and egg” issue: it is necessary to reduce the prices of electric cars to expand its use and vice versa. Through its power, the government will handle this problem working on its infrastructure, creating the appropriated conditions to stimulate consumers: facilitating recharge and increasing the vehicles’ autonomy.
Similar experiences are also being carried out in other countries, although not so ambitious. In Gumi, South Korea, some electric buses are already being recharged on-the-move, a project by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. In Mannheim, Germany, electric buses are recharged at bus stops, while passengers are boarding. In the United States, there are some projects being tested, mainly at universities.
In Brazil, the issue of recharging infrastructure for electric cars still needs to be tackled. But there are some good news. A recent decision of the Brazilian government exempted the 35% tax on the importation of electric cars, which will help reduce their price at the consumers’ end.
If the English project for large-scale electric roads succeeds, some barriers to the widespread use of electric cars will eventually fall. The project is backed by groups who support a clean and sustainable development, and the progressive abolition of all kinds of smoke generating transport.