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Transport / Mass transit

How will we charge electric cars in the future?

Electric cars are, slowly but surely, becoming A Thing: around a million plug-in vehicles have been sold since 2008. The biggest barrier to public uptake, though, is a problem familiar to anyone with mid-range smartphone: charging. 

At the moment, most countries don’t have a thought-through infrastructure of public plug points where electric car owners can recharge their vehicles, despite the fact that they can travel anywhere between one and seven hours or 40-140 miles on a single charge. This is, at best, anxiety-inducing for car owners; at worst, it could be dangerous and lead to breakdowns during badly-planned trips.

Thankfully, the UK government is looking into ways to improve our electric car infrastructure. Perhaps the most exciting is the recharging road. This is a stretch of motorway which uses magnetic induction (the same technology used in wireless phone chargers) to recharge the cars’ batteries while they’re driving:

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Image: Highways England.

As of this year, the government is starting trials of the roads (on private sites rather than stretches of real motorway), and is investing £500m in the project over the next five years. 


Meanwhile, there’s a public push to install plugs every 20 miles along major roads, and other non-governmental groups are exploring other options which dodge the necessity for new infrastructure. Hounslow council, for example, is running a pilot scheme of chargers, created by German company Urbitricity, which can fit directly into street lights. These, at around 400 Euros, are substantially cheaper than public charge points (or the fancy electric road), and could help bridge the gap between the current situation – randomly scattered plug points – and the integrated charging network of the future.


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