Utah university breaks ground on EV test facility
A university in Utah has broken ground on the country’s first electric vehicle test track fitted for in-motion, wireless electrical charging.
Workers at Utah State University began contruction Tuesday on a state-of-the-art facility that will include an electrified track, a quarter-mile long oval, that will demonstrate the effectiveness of wireless power charging.
This technology will help address at least one of the principal blocks to more widespread adoption of electric vehicles -- range, and the range anxiety that accompanies drivers afraid they’ll run out of juice before they have time to recharge.
Systems designed to charge electric vehicles, while they are at rest, already exist in pilot programs, said Dr. Regan Zane, the professor in USU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who will be in charge of the USU facility.
More cutting-edge is the technology that allows the transfer of power to vehicles in motion as they pass over wireless charging stations.
“We’ll be investigating the unique challenges of charging vehicles while they’re in motion,” Dr. Zane said, in the facility’s quarter-mile loop - one leg of which will go indoors for up-close study. “We’ll do testing at very slow speeds, and we’ll be able to evaluate charging at speeds up to 35mph.”
One result of in-motion, wireless charging, Dr. Zane, would be the reduction of size and weight of the batteries required to power electric vehicles.
“If we want to push toward a vehicle that has a 300-plus mile range, the battery size and vehicle weight goes up prohibitively,” he said. “But if we had a vehicle that could receive charge in motion, we could get that range with a smaller, lighter battery that might have only a 30-mile range.”
This work isn’t only going on in Utah. Dr. Zane said South Korea is already running public buses on a similar wireless charging system. And the car companies BMW and Daimler are in partnership to jointly develop a shared wireless charging system for BMW’s i3 and i8 electric vehicles.
The 4,800-square-foot facility will be built near the USU campus in North Logan, Utah, north of Salt Lake City, with a budget of $2 million to $3 million, Dr. Zane said. The test track will be operational as early as spring of 2015.
Follow me on Twitter: @misterfleming