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

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the i'm-holding-out-for-mr.-fusion dept.

Transportation 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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216 comments

VOLVO STILL MAKING TIN BUCKET CARS ?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008627)

It is a terrible car !!

Re:VOLVO STILL MAKING TIN BUCKET CARS ?? (4, Informative)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#44008715)

Volvo, the truck company (The one we are talking about), spun off Volvo, the car company, a long time ago.

Re:VOLVO STILL MAKING TIN BUCKET CARS ?? (5, Funny)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 10 months ago | (#44009179)

So we're talking about Volvo, not Volvo. It's hard to see how AC got confused.

Re:VOLVO STILL MAKING TIN BUCKET CARS ?? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#44009315)

Just wait until they go into partnership with SAAB, either the aerospace or car company. Those Swedes.

Who Pays? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008631)

So the tax payers will be funding roads with this technology for the use of very few users?

Re:Who Pays? (5, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#44008803)

If one assumes that this is the solution for electric cars, then a logical extension is that everybody will adopt it. Intercity truck hauling is the low hanging fruit so that is where you start. Then it cascades down to everybody. In 20 years half the cars driving would use the technology.

Initially costs would have to be subsidized by the taxpayers, but as usage grows then subsides would disappear with costs being recouped by charging for the electricity.

It’s a long shot but there could be huge wins. That is how I would evaluate it.

Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

Picass0 (147474) | about 10 months ago | (#44008999)

An interesting concept but it seems very unlikely this will be a prefered solution in 30 years as battery technology improves.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (3, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#44009191)

I will agree with you that batteries (or better yet, ultracapacitors) are the more likely solution, but they have gaps.

Cars work. Busses that travel along prearranged routs work either by battery swapping or fast charges at bus stops.

Trucks don’t work, or at least not as well. I different solution is going to be needed. If this is the solution for trucks (which I am not sure of) then would think it would be a simple add on for cars. Batteries for short trips, power from the road when on the highway. They would not be incompatible, but there would be some tradeoff for the extra weight..

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (3, Insightful)

0123456 (636235) | about 10 months ago | (#44009243)

Ultimately it's not going to work because rebuilding roads to fit all this crap underneath them would be insanely expensive compared to pretty much any other alternative. It might be viable in towns where the roads are close to capacity all the time, but stringing up overhead electrical cables would almost certainly be much cheaper. The idea that you'd rip up hundreds of miles of road between two North American cities to fit complex electrical systems under them so a few dozen trucks an hour could drive along there using electricity rather than diesel is simply laughable.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009353)

What they could do is have the trucks drive on the rails so they have to put them in. The upside is that there will be lower rolling resistance so it'll be more efficient anyway.

Ok so let's put metal rails between major cities and use electric vehicles on them.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (2, Funny)

dantotheman (2887483) | about 10 months ago | (#44009493)

What they could do is have the trucks drive on the rails so they have to put them in. The upside is that there will be lower rolling resistance so it'll be more efficient anyway.

Ok so let's put metal rails between major cities and use electric vehicles on them.

I think they normally call that a train.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009773)

Woosh

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009971)

duh woosh duh

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

rezalas (1227518) | about 10 months ago | (#44009655)

The idea that you'd rip up hundreds of miles of road between two North American cities to fit complex electrical systems under them so a few dozen trucks an hour could drive along there using electricity rather than diesel is simply laughable.

More like a hundred or more every hour during the day, and a few dozen an hour late at night. The number of trucks traveling over the highway system in Oklahoma is staggering, and having electrical systems under the highways would be well worth the money. As for ripping up the highway, they do that anyway on a regular basis to ensure maintenance and safety. If half the vehicles on the highway converted to electric it would be worth the money in the end.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009797)

They already do this every 5-10 years anyway. Having been a long haul trucker for many years I can tell you they tear up 10-20 miles of interstate for maintenance down to the dirt and rebuild it fairly regularly (hence the saying, there are only two seasons for truck drivers - winter and construction). It would add to the cost but since it is torn up already it would not be that difficult to incrementally add this technology as roads are routinely rebuilt.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44009269)

An interesting concept but it seems very unlikely this will be a prefered solution in 30 years as battery technology improves.

One problem with nerds that are living in the age of Moore's Law, is that they end up believing that other technologies enjoy the same sort of exponential improvements as semiconductors. In general, they do not. There will almost certainly be some incremental improvements, but I wouldn't bet on any big breakthrough in battery technology. If you look at the periodic table, there just isn't anything to the left or above lithium, except hydrogen which isn't practical for a number of reasons. It is extremely unlikely that we are going to discover a new alkali metal between lithium and hydrogen.

Of course, someone may invent "Mister Fusion", but that is not a battery.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#44009387)

You don’t need to go anywhere on the periodic table. Automobile parts (such as the hood of a car) have been made from carbon fiber that serves as ultracapacitors. The problem is manufacturing them economically.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

gewalker (57809) | about 10 months ago | (#44009723)

There was a recent news items article [i4u.com] for Lithium-Sulfur batteries with 4 times the capacity of todays. There is also evidence [bbc.co.uk] suggesting batteries with 10 times current capacities may be viable.

Battery tech appears poised for a breakthrough that could be game changing for lots of transportation use. Given the rules of chemistry, this would be the last possible break-through for batteries (only so-much energy in chemical bonds).

I like supercaps too, especially if you can built them from carbon instead of lithium -- though the voltage drop-off issue is a significant limitation.

Adding rails to all of our roads seems like an expensive refit, though potentially adding to interstates and other high-volume roads might be economically justifiable -- I guess LENR cars [lenrnews.eu] would be even better.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (1)

Nikker (749551) | about 10 months ago | (#44009425)

I think the idea of using this infrastructure to charge batteries would be useful. If the power provided would serve to power the car and enough surplus to charge the battery you would never need to stop at a fuel/charge station again.

Re:Expensive, ultimately disposable infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009731)

So this is a hi-tech version of the old Street car. The part that is new is keep your "Speed" over 60 km/h or it will not run part. ;)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_car

So what happen when they decide to change the routes?

Re:Who Pays? (3, Interesting)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 10 months ago | (#44009297)

If one assumes that this is the solution for electric cars, then a logical extension is that everybody will adopt it. Intercity truck hauling is the low hanging fruit so that is where you start. Then it cascades down to everybody. In 20 years half the cars driving would use the technology.

Initially costs would have to be subsidized by the taxpayers, but as usage grows then subsides would disappear with costs being recouped by charging for the electricity.

It’s a long shot but there could be huge wins. That is how I would evaluate it.

I can see a couple of 'gotchas' already.

First, those are conductors embedded in the road. They'll be exposed to the weather and climate. What happens when a snow plow drives over it scraping snow away from the road bed? Won't the blade short out the strip? Can it get all the snow and ice off the conductors? Will there be shorts when a vehicle activates a strip? What happens if a strip goes dead for a bit? Are they going to be designed short enough that momentum will take the vehicle to the next strip?

How are you going to power this sucker?

This is an interesting concept, though, a way to get engineers thinking outside the box. But why use strips embedded in a road surface when you can build maser towers and beam power to a rectenna installed on the vehicle?

Re:Who Pays? (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | about 10 months ago | (#44009589)

It will likely start with the city bus system funded by taxpayers. Just move the overhead power lines underground on selected routes to test the concept. The encrypted signal is so other users can't steal the power without a subscription. Quick, someone patent storing energy in a capacitor so you can get the car/truck/bus the next 100 yards down the road.

Re:Who Pays? (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#44009953)

Not possible. The only way that would be possible is if you've got millions of individual power cells that the car is charging from as it goes. With the cells turning on and off in response to the signal.

So, I guess it's technically possible, but the likelihood of getting a device like that to function would be pretty much nihil.

A better move would be to just charge a tax based upon the distance driven and the type of vehicle, knowing approximately how much juice the vehicle would be using to cover the distance on average.

But, I see serious problems with this, we get a lot of flooding around here, which would reek havoc on a system like this, even when the flood waters are only a quarter inch deep. We sometimes get as much as 5" of rain in a 24 hour period, which would require the system to be shut down, even when it's still safe to drive.

Urban areas only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008641)

Although recovering electricity from piezoelectric roads that also power the cars driving on them might be cool too.

Re:Urban areas only (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#44008843)

Sadly probably no. Piezoelectric works because of an elastic spring when pressure is applied. Increasing the elastic spring of a road increases rolling resistance, which decreases the efficiency of the car, resulting in a net energy loss.

Re:Urban areas only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008933)

Except in California, where earthquakes are frequent. 20 free miles for everyone following an earthquake!

Re:Urban areas only (2)

hedwards (940851) | about 10 months ago | (#44009967)

I'm not so sure about that, the cars already cause the ground to vibrate a bit. Absorbing some of that and converting it to electricity would be a net win. Especially in places like Athens where the vibrations are damaging ancient buildings.

Tire's Flat (4, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#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!

Magnets? (1)

KingSkippus (799657) | about 10 months ago | (#44009071)

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.

Re:Magnets? (5, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#44009151)

No free lunch. Any electricity you make by passing a a coil over a magnet is coming from loss of forward velocity.

There are wireless charging methods, but they again require outside power.

Re:Magnets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009595)

If you are going to put magnets under the road why not go all the way and just build a maglev train.

Re:Tire's Flat (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009259)

That's why we are also going to switch to rubber roads and cement tires. Makes much more sense.

Re:Tire's Flat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009321)

"Sorry I was late, boss. The road was flat."

giant Scalextric (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#44008659)

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?

Electric vehicle tracking (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Never gonna happen... (1)

TimO_Florida (2894381) | about 10 months ago | (#44008709)

Think you've got people complaining about EM sicknesses now? Just wait till they find out about this. Power drain and costs per mile are going to put it too far out of reach (look around at the crumbling road infrastructure we have now and ask yourself if you also want a few hundred amps going through there, too...)

Re:Never gonna happen... (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 10 months ago | (#44008777)

I guess you don't live anywhere where they have electric trams. nobody really gives a shit about the em wackos.

this concept as it is can't work anywhere in near future except limited areas, like cities using them for tram routes or such, big factory installations and docks etc.

Re:Never gonna happen... (1)

pr0fessor (1940368) | about 10 months ago | (#44008821)

I agree I just don't see this as a workable idea for every road. I surely wouldn't want to pay for the upgrade. There was an article not to long ago on slashdot about promising battery research I wish I could find it. It appeared to be a more achievable.

To sum up, it's an over-complicated trolley, (4, Insightful)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 10 months ago | (#44008745)

complete with all the limitation thereof.

Re:To sum up, it's an over-complicated trolley, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008783)

I like that comment.

Where are these schemes going to get the electricity?

Re:To sum up, it's an over-complicated trolley, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009037)

Yep. This is an absurd idea, and shame on Slashdot for giving it attention.

Re:To sum up, it's an over-complicated trolley, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009471)

Also, does anyone here know what happens to my dog standing on a wet street when there's a live and open power line on the street just a few feet away?

Apart from an instant short-circuit I mean.

(I really have no experience with those things, and am curious if and how they solved that.)

What? (2)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 10 months ago | (#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? (4, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about 10 months ago | (#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.

Re:What? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#44008987)

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? (3, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 10 months ago | (#44009065)

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.

Re:What? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009165)

*sigh* Look, how many times do I have to tell you idiots before you'll understand? Unicorn farts are a more efficient HEATING energy source, not ELECTRICAL. You're thinking of fairy tears.

Sounds expensive (1)

hrimhari (1241292) | about 10 months ago | (#44008755)

Road maintenance is already a problem on many a government's budget. I have the impression that adding a complex system of energy delivery which includes encryption and selective power-up seems too complex.

Re:Sounds expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008799)

Road maintenance is already a problem on many a government's budget. I have the impression that adding a complex system of energy delivery which includes encryption and selective power-up seems too complex.

Why? That's just another reason for more taxes, more money for the gov't.

Re:Sounds expensive (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#44009113)

They already have that kind of thing [wikipedia.org] for railroads, really. Instead of powering on an alerting system it would power on the energy delivery system. That's the harder part, not the encryption and selectivity.

Why not pull a Powermat... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008781)

and go full inductive?

Re:Why not pull a Powermat... (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 10 months ago | (#44009447)

Because that would impose staggering losses in the energy transfer. Inductive (magnetic) transfer of energy is not very efficient when there are air gaps involved. You can do it, but you are going to waste a LOT of energy. You do solve the problem of having large voltages touchable by the public.

Of course... One could just produce a magnetic system to push the cars forward in a linear motor setup and avoid much of the transfer losses. Just imagine the automated traffic control you could have with being able to control the speed of cars on your road system...

Or... Just do what we've done for years and put wires up in the air over the road.

Perhaps we had better just go find some more Oil and burn gasoline...

Opportinity for Mileage Tax (1)

PseudoCoder (1642383) | about 10 months ago | (#44008899)

This would be a great opportunity for the politicians who have been trying to tax road usage by the mile, because then the power bill would be a function of your mileage and you can just stick a tax on that and you're done.

Sell the tracking data to the feds! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44008923)

Since location would be implicit, this would be great information for the feds to use in order to prevent terrorism!

automobile methodone (3, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about 10 months ago | (#44008939)

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..

Re:automobile methodone (2)

MindStalker (22827) | about 10 months ago | (#44009263)

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 of the friction advantage of metal on metal.

Re:automobile methodone (3, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 10 months ago | (#44009431)

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.

Re:automobile methodone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009487)

I agree with you when it comes to long haul trucking. There is no reason that in the US an item that was offloaded from a boat from China in LA should be put on the back of a Semi-Truck and driven to New York. However, there is still the problem of efficiently delivering goods from the train yard to the warehouse/storefront. This technology would help with that aspect of shipping.

Re:automobile methodone (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 10 months ago | (#44009495)

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 copper can be fully integrated into the road surface, or if it could be at high voltage at all times.)

Rail is nice for heavy freight or rapid passenger transport, but it sure isn't cheap and it's not getting any cheaper either. Again, look at the price of steel. It's quite disconcerting when you think about how dependent modern society is on cheap steel.

skip the road, use long thin metal guides instead (5, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 10 months ago | (#44008983)

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

Brilliant!

Re:skip the road, use long thin metal guides inste (1)

chill (34294) | about 10 months ago | (#44009529)

I was thinking slot cars. I had a set when I was a kid. Lots of fun.

Too bad it wont work (1)

akboss (823334) | about 10 months ago | (#44009069)

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 fantastic for the trucking industry/ drivers which is why it will never be done.

Re:Too bad it wont work (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009513)

Why not just tow a little booster behind the tractor before the trailer - then that module could run at highway speed.

Ya, giant slot cars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009083)

1:1 scale slot cars FTW

F-Zero (1)

Sowelu (713889) | about 10 months ago | (#44009097)

So F-Zero, basically.

Re:F-Zero (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | about 10 months ago | (#44009413)

It'd be F-Zero if it was superconducting.

Re:F-Zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009693)

No, it'd be F-Zero if it would repair the damage caused by slamming into the guardrails.

There's no mention of the road powering the jet-powered hovercars. There was just a deus-ex-machina "repair" facility on the pit road that appeared to emanate from glowy lines on the road itself.

And that damned green alien guy that just wouldn't get out of my way... If I ever see him on the road, he's gonna be chewing on a road sign shortly thereafter.

Newsflash: Current flows in the other direction (1)

Anonym0us Cow Herd (231084) | about 10 months ago | (#44009169)

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.

Re:Newsflash: Current flows in the other direction (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 10 months ago | (#44009379)

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. [mi.mun.ca] 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 are concerned with the actual motion of electrons in substances. These preferences are cultural, in the sense that certain groups of people have found it advantageous to envision electric current motion in certain ways.

http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_1/chpt_1/7.html [allaboutcircuits.com]Conventional current tends to be an electrical engineering convention. Electron flow current is a physics conventional preference. Unsurprisingly, partisans of one often complain the other is wrong. This is fanboi-ism, no less than Apple partisans complaining that Windows is wrong.

Many problems, but not impossible (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 10 months ago | (#44009173)

This has been tried before. It's called a ground level power supply. [wikipedia.org] 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.

Medians for solar power (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | about 10 months ago | (#44009201)

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 over country" have long, unused stretches of median which could be tiled with solar collectors. With modern power conversion tech, these could add energy to integrated powerlines that run straight to the next city. (Adding guardrails as needed.)

Perhaps add a few liquid metal batteries [ted.com] for storage and load balancing.

Is it possible to get popular support and political will at the level that built the US federal highway system? The benefit from this infrastructure would be enormous.

Charge of electricity (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 10 months ago | (#44009223)

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?

weather? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009295)

Rails in the roads. Did anyone think to stop and say - "Wait a minute. What about when it snows?"

Re:weather? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009451)

Snow will be taxed proportionally to the depth on government mandated roads, but will be offset with tax credits in uninhabited regions. This will keep our roads clear while causing, on average, more snow to fall, thus reducing global warming.

I wonder why nobody ever thought of it before.

Issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009401)

There are so many issues with this idea, and believe me I love the electric car future. If I had the money to throw down for a Tesla I would do it in a heartbeat, but alas I bought a new car a couple years ago that gets 35MPG so I can't even justify that yet. Maybe in 4-6 years when I replace this car electric cars will start to become popular.

One: There has to be batteries still. There are power outages, and no one is going to buy into a system that will grind their business to a halt if they have to ship anything through an area without power. All the trucks and cars that need to park off of streets in dirt area for construction, etc. The list is near endless.

Two: Electrifying the roadway, seriously? The cost of doing that safely would be a major limiting factor. You can't worry about some kids playing in the road and getting killed because they touched some piece of metal. Not to mention they would need a way to track and block usage or the power companies won't buy into it. If someone can leech power from the road without paying that will be cause all sorts of investment problems. So this means you would really need to have computers on basically every street.

Re:Issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009437)

Manufacturers need to stick with one principle: Keep it Simple, Stupid

The less work the average consume has to do, the more the system 'just works,' and preferably works as close to the old system as possible, the faster it will catch on. I agree, deploying a nation wide equivalent to a trolley system is just a bad idea.

Expensive, impractical (2)

kheldan (1460303) | about 10 months ago | (#44009409)

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.

Re:Expensive, impractical (1)

User1138 (2948625) | about 10 months ago | (#44009545)

Other considerations would be if someone figured out a way to fry themselves with it You don't need to worry about walking on it with rubber sole sneakers but someone would touch it. Would the system be the equivalent of the third rail fryings we see in nyc? The article does not seem to go into detail on the system and I am at present searching for more information on the topic. The other curiosity would be frictional wear and tear on both the track and the plate. I agree with the parent in that this would be expensive and impractical. I'd rather see the extra money that could be foreseeably dumped into this project for work on a small high capacity ultracapacitor. If you could have such a device, you could charge your car in the matter of seconds and cruise.

great investment idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009919)

....small high capacity ultracapacitor. If you could have such a device, you could charge your car in the matter of seconds and cruise.

Just think of the demand it would create for 100000 amp fuses and circuit breakers.

Re:Expensive, impractical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44009703)

Not to mention the massive amount of metals we'd be raping out of mother earth.

Let the vendor lockin commence! (1)

pongo000 (97357) | about 10 months ago | (#44009449)

with a proper encrypted signal

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

so much for environmentally friendly (0)

holophrastic (221104) | about 10 months ago | (#44009459)

I think volvo, and most people, forget that the benefit of fuels (solid, liquid, or gaseous) is that they are very cheap to transport. Electricity, on the other hand, is insanely expensive to transport. Think about a 10% loss for every major hop. The middle of the road in a large city is likely 4 major hops from the power plant. That takes 100 down to 65. That's up to a 35% total loss.

That means generating more electricity -- a lot more electricity. There's no way to do that without huge environmental compromises. Wind turbines slow the wind, consume territory, look hideous, require huge maintenance, and make noise. Solar panels take up a huge about of territory, polute to manufacture, and require total replacement to upgrade.

On top of all of that, live current traveling across the city everywhere requires a level of infrastructure that simply doesn't exist. Roads tear, there's snow and ice and water and sand and debris. And pot holes, and pedestrians, and squirrels.

And you're going to make repairing the road that much more time consuming and costly? now every road construction crew needs specialized electricians just to fix the pavement?

Thanks for the solution based on more complicated and more specialized and more expensive infrastructure. I could have done that too. Hey! Let's just put electricity everywhere! That'll solve our electricity problem!

I'll do one better. Let's electrify the air itself. Very little, we don't want chain lightning. But just enough that it's there. And then we'll have these vaccuum suckers on all the cars, and as they move they'll suck in the air, and absorb the electricity that we'll store in the humidity itself. And we'll only electrify the air over highways. And somehow, it won't kill the billions of insects that get sucked up and electrified.

Hey volvo, how many insects are going to get fried during your electricity transfer? Will it be millions per minute per mile of road?

ridiculously stupid (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#44009891)

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.
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