S.Korea unveils 'recharging road' for eco-friendly buses

March 9, 2010
The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV), towing three carriages, runs along a blue line under which power strips are buried for recharging, at an amusement park in Gwacheon, south of Seoul. S.Korean researchers launched an environmentally-friendly public transport system using a "recharging road" -- with a vehicle sucking power magnetically from buried electric strips.

South Korean researchers Tuesday launched an environmentally friendly public transport system using a "recharging road" -- with a vehicle sucking power magnetically from buried electric strips.

The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV), towing three buses, went into service at an amusement park in southern Seoul. If the prototype proves successful, there are plans to try it out on a bus route in the capital.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), which developed the system, says OLEV needs a only one-fifth the size of conventional and eliminates the need for major recharging.

It also avoids the need for overhead wires used to conventional trams or trolley buses.

Guests including Seoul mayor Oh Se-Hoon and KAIST president Suh Nam-Pyo were given a 2.2-kilometre (1.4-mile) ride Tuesday around the zoo at Seoul Grand Park.

Recharging strips have been installed in four segments totalling some 400 metres along the route.

Pick-up equipment underneath OLEV collects power through non-contact magnetic charging from strips buried under the road surface. It then distributes the power either to drive the vehicle or for battery storage.

If the system is used on Seoul bus routes, underground power lines would have to be installed on only 20 percent of the route at places like stops, parking places and intersections, KAIST said in a statement.

The technology was first developed in a project involving the University of California (Berkeley) but KAIST said that produced no tangible results.

The state-funded institute says it has applied for more than 120 patents in connection with OLEV, which it describes as safe, clean and economical.

"Of all the world's electric vehicles, this is the most economical system," Suh told reporters, adding the operating cost is only about one-third of ordinary electric vehicles.

"The potential for application (of this technology to systems) is limitless. I dare say this is one of the most significant technical gains in the 21st century," Suh said.

Suh said KAIST plans to use OLEVs to shuttle delegates at the G20 summit which Seoul will host in November.

Project director Cho Song-Ho said technical breakthroughs included an improved way of transmitting power to the pick-up device on the vehicle chassis.

Cho said a gap of at least 11 centimetres (4.4 inches) was needed to take account of bumpy roads, while OLEV can suck power across a gap of up to 25 cm.

Given a normal gap, the vehicle can turn more than 70 percent of the charge into energy for the vehicle, he said.

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2 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2010
Perfect! This needs to be scaled up to highways and the future will be electric. Now we have a big electricity generating problem.
not rated yet Mar 09, 2010
I wonder how complex the subsurface structure would be. I imagine at least some effort is made to radiate power upwards instead of in all directions. If its simple, we can just melt open slices of existing tarmac roads and put it in. Less batteries, less infrastructure (charging stations), this sounds good.
not rated yet Mar 09, 2010
Thanks for this: I needed something so neat for a throw-away line in a sci-fi tale-- Look, no wires !!
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Has anyone looked into the health issues related to this kind of a system. Without knowing the details, I can only speculate, but electromagnetic induction seems like the likeliest method for achieving the claimed power transfer. I shudder to think if the horrific levels of EMR that must be required.

Having said that, it's probably a step in the right direction, and might be feasible in densely populated areas or on routes with heavy traffic. But the idea of having widely available recharging facilities to avoid a huge battery load sounds like a good idea.

And what's wrong with a "big electricity generating problem"? At least electric energy can be generated at stationary plants and provide a means of powering vehicles by some means other than internal combustion engines, whose efficiencies top out in the low 20% range -- pathetic when compared to efficiencies of electric distribution systems.

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