The news this week that energy prices could more than double in the next decade is, unfortunately,not surprising – the first five months of this year have seen some of the highest oil prices in memory. At the time of writing, gasoline prices are pushing GBP1.40 (US$2.28) per litre – an astronomical price which affects everyone’s bottom line, from big businesses with fleets of company cars to young families with a car for the school run. If the predictions are correct, owning and running a gasoline-powered car could become, for many, untenable.
It is therefore time to get real about renewable energy and alternative ways to power vehicles. Electric cars are no longer the preserve of environmental activists but the future of car travel. The automotive industry has finally started to recognise this and this year has seen a huge leap forwar with the launch of the Nissan Leaf at one end of the scale and the Rolls-Royce Experimental Electric Phantom 102EX at the other. However this is only half the battle, as consumers still have significant reservations about buying these electric vehicles.
If the predictions are correct, owning and running a gasoline-powered car could become, for many, untenable.
Electric cars are still considered to be expensive, inconvenient in their need to charge, and unrealistic in terms of their range. Indeed ‘range anxiety’ remains one of the biggest barriers to mass market uptake of electric vehicles. Technology which tackles all of these issues has been developed and is entering the market now. Wireless Inductive Power Transfer (IPT) technology, for example, has been developed to charge electric vehicles without the need for plugs and cables and it is already powering the aforementioned Rolls-Royce. The system uses two pads: a transmitter pad set into the ground, and a receiver pad, which fits underneath the vehicle. The car simply needs to be parked over the pad in order to charge automatically. By removing the need for wires, this system removes the typical inconveniences associated with plug-in vehicles, for example that they are unsafe and often awkward to access. Furthermore, HaloIPT has developed this technology so that in the future, charging pads could be fitted along a whole road, allowing vehicles to charge whilst on the move. This is called ‘dynamic in-motion charging’ and would completely eliminate ‘range anxiety’, as cars would end a journey with sufficient charge, no matter how far they have driven along one of these ‘e-ways’.
Once there is mass uptake of electric cars, costs will begin to drop and we will have a real, viable and ultimately cheaper alternative to being slaves to the price of oil.
However, investment into the infrastructure that supports wireless charging is sorely needed.High profile trials to promote the technology to the public and a large-scale roll out of charging pads and eventually, in-road pads are essential. No matter how good the technology and models available, without the infrastructure to support regular, practical use, drivers cannot see how an electric car can be a seamless part of their daily lives and uptake will remain low. Once there is mass uptake of electric cars, costs will begin to drop and we will have a real, viable and ultimately cheaper alternative to being slaves to the price of oil.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Dr Anthony Thomson is chief executive of HaloIPT
HaloIPT is a UK-based technology development company specialising in public and private transportation. The company was founded in 2010 by research and development commercialisation company UniServices, Trans Tasman Commercialisation Fund (TTCF) and by the global design consultancy Arup. HaloIPT owns the rights to the intellectual property behind its wireless charging technology: providing stationary and dynamic in-motion charging for electric vehicles, lowering costs and improving usability.
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