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Japan cruises ahead with drive-thru EV charging trial

Researchers in Japan are preparing to test out technology that enables electric vehicles to charge wirelessly while still moving, which could lead to drivers not needing to plug in and charge up as frequently, as well as lighter vehicles with fewer batteries.

The demonstration involves power transmission coils embedded into the road surface at key locations such as in front of traffic signals, where vehicles are more likely to be moving slowly in order to be able to recharge. It is expected that a 10-second charge will enable a typical electric car to travel 1 km (about 0.6 miles).

According to Japan’s University Journal news site, the charging system to be used in this pilot was developed by Professor Hiroshi Fujimoto and Associate Professor Osamu Shimizu of the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences at the University of Tokyo.

The project is set to start in October at the Kashiwa-no-ha Smart City Project, described as a new town in the northwestern part of Kashiwa city, Chiba prefecture, not far from Tokyo, which is intended to embody “a new vision for the cities of tomorrow.”

Operation

In order not to waste energy, the power transmission coils are not energized at all times, but are fitted with a system that detects when vehicles are in proximity and minimizes standby power when not operating.

One aim of the project is to test out whether the power transmission coils have sufficient durability to be embedded into the road surface for any length of time. The research group will use this experiment to verify the durability of a pre-cast coil that integrates the power transmission system and road surface, the University Journal states.

According to Nikkei Asia, the test is scheduled to run until March 2025 and will cover safety as well as durability and other aspects. It states that if successful, Kashiwa aims to have automated shuttle buses operating using in-road charging by about 2030.

The demonstration involves a joint research group made up of the University of Tokyo, Chiba University, and nine companies including tire maker Bridgestone, ROHM Semiconductor, and automotive manufacturers such as NSK.

Fitting power transmission into the road infrastructure could enable electric vehicles to operate with less battery capacity, making them lighter, and could also help to mitigate the shortage of conventional charging points, it has been suggested.

Similar trials have been planned in other areas. A stretch of road in the German town of Balingen has also been used for running a trial this year, focused on buses and fixed charge points fitted at bus stops.

Another pilot scheme has been slated for the city of Nottingham, UK, this time targeting electric taxis with induction loops installed at some taxi ranks to recharge vehicles while the cab driver is waiting to pick up a fare.

According to a discussion published by consulting outfit McKinsey, wireless charging could make EV ownership more appealing as it becomes more convenient and involves less wear and tear because cables and connectors are not being plugged in and unplugged several times a day. It predicted that many OEMs will introduce wireless charging technology by 2024 or 2025.

But there are issues that need ironing out, such as ensuring all vehicles are compatible with all chargers, and whether existing EVs could be retrofitted to enable wireless charging. There is also a shortage of conventional charging points in many countries, such as the UK.

The British government announced last year a goal of having 300,000 public chargers available by 2030. As of July 2023, there were just 44,020. ®

source: The Register