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Transportation Power

Volvo's Electric Roads Concept Points To Battery-Free EV Future 216

Zothecula writes "While quick charging technology installed at strategic points along a planned route might be a good fit for inner city buses, it's not going to be of much use to electric vehicles that stop infrequently. Volvo sees our future long-haul trucks and buses drawing the juice they need from the road itself, making large onboard batteries a thing of the past. 'The two power rails/lines run along the road's entire length. One is a positive pole, and the other is used to return the current. The lines are sectioned so that live current is only delivered to a collector mounted at the rear of, or under, the truck if an appropriate signal is detected. As an additional safety measure, the current flows only when the vehicle is moving at speeds greater than 60 km/h (37 mph). "The vehicle is equipped with a radio emitter, which the road segments can sense," explains Volvo's Per-Martin Johnansson. "If an electric vehicle passes a road segment with a proper encrypted signal, then the road will energize the segments that sense the vehicle.'"
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Volvo's Electric Roads Concept Points To Battery-Free EV Future

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  • Tire's Flat (Score:5, Funny)

    by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:08PM (#44008647)

    You go change it.

    I'm not going to change it, I'll get fried.

    We are stopped, no juice.

    Yeah, right. Then you change the tire.

    No Way!

    • Personally, I would've gone with "No juice? Then how will we ever get the vehicle moving fast enough for the road to turn on? This is what we get for driving the 35 mph speed limit."
    • Wasn't there some scheme a few years ago someone came up with that used the concept of charging cars by putting magnets under the roads so that as the cars passed over them it would induce an electric current in coils contained in the undercarriage? Seems like that would be a lot safer and cost-effective than rolling out electric rails, and wouldn't require physical contact.

  • looks impractical, to be honest. might be suitable for some routes, but for those you might just as well put over the road electric rails(some busses in russia do this, or at least did kinda like tram on rubber wheels). they claim this system is used on some trams too, not sure if those trams are on rails though which makes it a lot simpler and reliable.

    for example, what about winter?

    • looks impractical, to be honest. might be suitable for some routes, but for those you might just as well put over the road electric rails

      This [] looks a lot more practical. It even allows the trucks to leave the highway and travel on to their ultimate destination.

      • I'll admit I dindn't RTFA, but I imagine the "rails" being discussed are power rails, a concept completely independent from railroad rails - i.e. they do nothing to keep the car on track, they just provide power so long as the brushes are in contact.

        As such the big advantage I see of in-road rather than overhead power rails is in aerodynamics. To access overhead power rails you need some sort of big aerodynamically ugly arm reaching up to the rail, potentialy drastically increasing power losses to air resi

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          they say that the power rails in the road rather than in the air are cheaper.

          I just find that unlikely, especially anywhere with occasional snow and long cycles of road repairing.. yeah it gets structural reinforcement but it gets to take a lot more abuse and different kind of structural stresses as the road lives during seasons.

          the thing is the siemens type system is used for public transport with busses in many parts of the world and has been used for decades.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:10PM (#44008671)

    You need an appropriate device on your car to activate the power to the rails on your section of the road. This gives a great opportunity to track your vehicle, where it is, what speed it's travelling, how much energy it's using and then send you a bill as a sort of dynamic road toll for the use of the road, a bill for the energy you used and the fines for exceeding the speed limit all without actually having an officer present.

    Wouldn't mind it, though, if the system were intelligent enough that I could tell the car where I wanted to stop and then it could take care of the details of getting me there and wake me up from my nap once we get within a few miles of the destination. If the car's driving while I'm napping then they can send any moving violations to the company that built the car and its software.

  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:15PM (#44008745) Journal

    complete with all the limitation thereof.

    • by eth1 ( 94901 )

      complete with all the limitation thereof.

      No, you're just not being creative enough.

      I'd assume passenger cars using this would sill have batteries. If the system can provide enough juice to run the car and charge the battery, you don't actually need the system on 100% of the roads. What about just putting it in front of intersections in the city where cars sit for several minutes?

      If it doesn't kick in until 30+ MPH, then most likely the trucks will keep their diesels (maybe reconfigured as a diesel/electric series hybrid, or something), so they use

      • Actually I'd think highways would be the better example, especially considering even the summary mentions long-haul trucking. Use your batteries for getting around town where you don't really need much range (who drives even 50 miles/day on city streets? Delivery people maybe?), then get unlimited range while on the highways and be fully charged when you get to your destination and go back to unpowered streets.

    • by jfengel ( 409917 )

      Seems to me that eliminating the battery entirely is unlikely, but that this could be used in conjunction with smaller batteries to solve the "range anxiety". You're good to go with your batteries for your daily runaround routes (including getting off the highway to pee), and you use the highway's power for your inter-city travel. The car would be far cheaper if it needed only 50 miles worth of range rather than 300.

      You might even be able to charge your battery, eliminating the need for a charging station a

    • Exactly! Well, assuming you are refering to some sort of fleet of magical private trolleys which can leave their tracks at will and power themselves off stored power as they drives around unpowered streets and then reconnect to the power rails when they're back on the highway/other powerd street of course.

  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:16PM (#44008753)

    While quick charging technology installed at strategic points along a planned route might be a good fit for inner city buses, it's not going to be of much use to electric vehicles that stop infrequently.

    Ya, that sort of thing hasn't really worked out for petrol-type vehicles at all. If only there were places I could buy gasoline (or electricity) along the way... Oh well, one can dream.

    • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:28PM (#44008911)

      Since a typical electric car needs about 5x as many fill-ups as a typical gasoline car, you'd need five times as much 'refuelling' capacity. And since they take about ten times as long to charge, those cars would be staying at those 'refuelling' stations for ten times as long.

      Electric cars are a silly idea until we have Mr Fusion units or batteries made from unicorn farts.

      • Electric cars are a silly idea until we have Mr Fusion units or batteries made from unicorn farts.

        Mandating them would be stupid, but they're useful for a lot of people right now. And batteries made from unicorn farts? I mean, where do you get the unicorns? Srsly

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:41PM (#44009065) Homepage
        If we're going to go through the trouble of laying down electric rails on the highway, why not just put down actual rails so we don't have to steer the cars either. have a system where the car can attach/detach from the rails so that it can move between traditional roads and roads with rails. Basically it would work like those electric slot car racers, except you'd want to engineer it so it the car wouldn't fly off the track in a corner. The car would then just retract the mechanism that fits inside the slot when it wants to go on traditional roads. You could have an electric car that has it's own batteries for short trips, but gets power from the roads when going on longer trips.
  • automobile methodone (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:30PM (#44008939) Homepage
    while i agree finding affordable solutions to retrofit existing vehicles for alternative energy should be a near-term priority, I detest the idea of the long-haul truck as being anything sustainable. we have an entire infrastructure of bought-and-paid-for rail that stretches across the nation to deliver goods. its already partially electric by virtue of its diesel to electric locomotive propulsion system, and could be almost trivial to convert to a hybrid electric system that returns energy to the grid. eventually going full electric would be largely feasible and we'd take some of the largest polluters off the roads in the process.
    volvo might use this technology to create rechargeable cities. for example: san diego is a charging city, but once on the freeway you're "wireless" and running off the battery. upon entering say, downtown los angeles, you're in a charging city and running off the grid. grid fees are integrated with parking fees, etc..
    • A lot of the energy advantages of rail can be found in automated vehicles. If they travel close enough together they can use much less energy. The only real "waste" is the additional friction of rubber tires versus metal on metal rails. This could eventually be overcome as well with technology advancements in tire technology. You could even run on very hard low traction tires that either brake in unconventional ways or soften up when needing to brake. No reason to tear up the existing infrastructure because

      • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @02:15PM (#44009431) Journal

        For long-haul bulk freight, rail is astonishingly efficient. Nothing you can do with trucks comes anywhere close. Rail is pretty useless for that last mile, of course, but for long haul it's a bit of a mystery why it doesn't get more use.

    • True, but have you looked at steel prices lately? If the current trend continues we will eventually be unable to afford to build and maintain rail lines because of the price of the rails. Also, the price of copper is high enough that we'll soon start to see drones patrolling electrified rail lines to prevent copper theft, because electrified rail lines have lots of copper wire that's not at high voltage, and thieves have caught on. (Id' imagine electrified roads will have to be patrolled too unless the copp

  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:34PM (#44008983)

    You could call them "rails" or something... and connect multiple trucks together when they were all going the same direction.


  • There's nothing new under the sun.

  • They want to start with the trucking industry. That means they will have to remove each and every tractor (the driving part for you non trucking people) from the road and replace them with a suitable tractor. This tractor will need to have the current engine for long hauls and the electric for inner city travel as they currently perform both. Or you will need to build transfer point just outside of cities where the truckers can unload, transfer to smaller hybrid trucks to utilize this. This would be fantas
  • So F-Zero, basically.

  • From TFA . . .

    One is a positive pole, and the other is used to return the current.

    Current flows from the negative pole to the positive pole. It's just an accident of history how the two poles got named. It wasn't discovered until later that the particle (electron) is negative.

    • Which is why we have two systems: Conventional Current and Electron Flow. What you describe is electron flow.

      Either can be used. Neither is superior to the other. [] Both work consistently, AS LONG AS YOU DON'T MIX THEM.

      You will find conventional flow notation followed by most electrical engineers, and illustrated in most engineering textbooks. Electron flow is most often seen in introductory textbooks (this one included) and in the writings of professional scientists, especially solid-state physicists who ar

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:50PM (#44009173) Homepage

    This has been tried before. It's called a ground level power supply. [] Trams in Bordeaux use it. The sections are powered on and off in 8-meter sections. When a section is off, it's grounded. For safety, there are two levels of switching. The 8-meter sections each have their own power control box, and there's a second level of control which monitors a number of sections and will cut power for many sections if something is live that shouldn't be. The trams have battery backup so they can get through dead sections. Bordeaux only uses the system in their scenic historic area. Once out of that area, the trams raise pantographs to connect to overhead wire. Two other small cities in France have installed that system, but only short sections in the city center use that system. Dubai is putting in 14km of a similar system.

    Drainage, water, and ice are big problems. (Not in Dubai, though.) So is cost. There's a lot of high-voltage switchgear involved.

  • One aspect of solar power is the question of where to put the collectors. Land area is expensive and in short supply around cities, and putting the collectors close to where the energy is needed makes better efficiency.

    It occurred to me that we have lots of land in the medians between highways, many of which are enclosed by guard rails or Denver barriers. The road already has easements which could be used to run powerlines (metal conduits at ground level, no digging needed).

    For example, highways in "fly ove

  • I'm guessing this system meters which car used X amount of electricity and bills accordingly? You pay what you use, right? Or is this some sort of ploy to charge each tax payer a flat monthly fee across the board?

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @02:13PM (#44009409) Journal
    What if I want to go somewhere there is no infrastructure to power the car? What if I don't want my tax dollars going to the probably trillions of dollars necessary to install this everywhere? What if I don't think it's a good idea to have powered rails carrying hundreds (maybe thousands) of volts along major roads? If there's a glitch somewhere, then everyone on that road is stranded? I could go on. I think this is a really dumb idea. Focus on better, higher-density, longer-lifespan battery technology instead.
  • with a proper encrypted signal

    If Volvo has their way they will be sole provider of said service. Enough said...

  • If they go ahead and build this, Matel is going to sue them for patent infringement.
  • When I was a kid
    Called them slot cars

  • So every single road needs power lines along it on both sides so tall trucks an cranes can't make a left or right turn anywhere ever. Then when the power goes out, you can't drive anywhere. Then it's one unbelievably large target for hacking and terrorism so no home electricity OR transportation. This is quite possibly the stupidest idea since flying cars.
    • by ctid ( 449118 )

      You most certainly are ridiculously stupid! Try reading the article before calling ideas "stupid". The idea may well not work out but not for the reasons that you cite. Try reading the article and then thinking for a bit and then commenting. Then people won't think you are an idiot.

  • So basically, they reinvented the train...

    Maybe the consumer version will be like this... []

  • then the problem is how do we get smart roads?

    Smart roads would fix a lot of the problems we have, with today's technology.

    Delivering electricity would actually be a pretty futuristic concept compared to to-the-minute traffic analysis and management, silently collecting tolls, automatically alerting emergency crews in the case of accidents, telling driver-less cars the exact road terrain instead of relying purely on gps and cameras, and so on.

    You could even set up the right arrangement of coils and such, an

  • This is a very clever idea.

    To those making fun of it, it is *not* a railroad/railway, nor is it slot cars. The vehicle is not on a fixed track.

    Railways have had "third rail" power supply systems for a very long time. The biggest issue with them is safety; miles and miles of exposed high voltage terminal that will fry you if you touch them. Ouch. The mitigating factor that makes them a sensible option for a railway is that the railway is dangerous enough even without them that it needs to be fenced off.

    This invention is basically giving this system to the roads.

    The important point here is that the power is only activated for very short stretches of track at once, when that stretch is directly underneath the vehicle. This makes it safe enough to put it onto the public roads where you can't fence it off.

    What it *won't* do is give us battery-less cars any time soon. We might be able to get away with smaller batteries, but we will still need them. The summary states that it won't provide power if you're going at low speed. That means city drivers could go an entire journey without being able to use the system, and even for journeys where you can use it, you'll still have low-speed parts of your journey. Even if we decided to start building it now, it will be many decades before it has widescale coverage; there will be plenty of minor roads that are likely never to be upgraded (there are plenty today that are still dirt-roads). And of course, your own driveway probably won't be connected to the grid either.

    The beauty of this is that it is entirely compatible with the existing road network and could be implemented piecemeal. Roads could be upgraded with the system. Cars that can use it would benefit, but older cars could carry on using the same roads just the same as they always have. Likewise, if the electric cars also have a battery, they would be free to continue using roads that didn't have the electric rail as well as those that do.

    My prediction is that it will be used initially for bus routes. If all the bus routes in a city like London were converted, it would amount to a significant amount of track. The fuel savings to the bus operator would make it very easy to pitch to the city. Existing electric and hybrid cars owned by the public could then be retro-fitted with power pickups for the system, and where the bus routes are public roads, people could benefit from the same fuel savings. If this was subsidised on the grounds of reducing pollution in the city, then the public take-up for the project would likely be quite big.

    As the number of vehicles capable of using the system increases, the road network could be further upgraded beyond just the bus routes.

    So yes, it is a clever system. However, don't be fooled into thinking it's a new idea. This system was first used a decade ago for a tram line in France. It was the first electric tram line in the world not to need overhead power cables. Ground-based power lines had never previously safe enough for a tram line that needed to run through city streets. This system has been in use for a decade now and has proved itself well. Building it into the regular road network seems to be the next sensible step.

    Here's the wikipedia page about the existing tram system: []

  • "the current flows only when the vehicle is moving at speeds greater than 60 km/h" Push starts just got a whole lot more desperate. Aad/or funnier looking to watch. Wait, nobody these days knows what push starts were. Only people of a certain age will mod this one.
  • Radio announcer: "Well there's a traffic jam on I90. The power to that section of the city went out during a thunderstorm. The electric company has said power will be restored within 6 - 8 hours."

  • Two big problems with battery-based EVs are the battery itself (weight, expense, lifespan) and how long it takes to charge. Sure Tesla is working on their quick-charge stations, but even those are only quick compared to plugging in overnight - compared to pumping 10 gallons of gas, they're *really* slow.

    Capacitors could address some of that, but the energy density is too low - you need to charge them frequently. Some kind of road-based "kick charger" to top them off quickly could have a lot of potential.
  • Actually I can imagine a lot of very good uses for commercial use of battery powered trucks. One item is in forcing the drivers to actually obey routes and time schedules. As it is drivers normally cheat and spend too many hours on the road without rest. If a phone home type of system is built into the charging stations the trucker will be forced to take breaks, will have to stay on route as he would not be allowed to charge at other stations and hijacking a truck would not get the thief wher

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik