Taking electric vehicle range limitations out of the equation

newton_electric.jpgOne of the concerns about electric vehicles is the range. That is certainly true of the most popular commercial vehicle to date – the Newton, from Smith Electric Vehicles, which has an effective range of 100 mi. on a single charge.

But what if range was not part of equation? Certainly electric vehicles provide many benefits over their gas and diesel counterparts – fewer emissions and quieter to name just two. But with a limited range, the market for such vehicles is restricted to routes such as pickup and delivery where the vehicle returns to a fixed charging station each night.

Federal Express and UPS have been deploying the vehicles in city environments with great success. Many other companies are as well. But the market for electric vehicles could mushroom if only there was a way to charge a vehicle en route.

Now, maybe there is. Massachusetts-based OLEV Technologies has been awarded a contract by the city of McAllen, TX, to test just such a process. The On-line Electric Vehicle Bus Project is being funded through the Federal Transportation Administration TIGGER (Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction) grant program.

At a cost of $2.1 million ($211,000 from the city and the rest coming from the TIGGER grant), the project is set to launch this year and be completed by 2013.

(See how the OLEV Technologies' system works)

OLEV will install its system to allow three municipal buses that McAllen will retrofit with electric-drive systems to operate using electric power transmitted wirelessly from the roadbed. According to OLEV, this will allow the buses to continuously charge while they are traveling as well as while they load and unload passengers.

“This project will demonstrate the overall effectiveness of using enroute-charging technology to create an effective electronic roadway, as well as the cost effective means of converting buses from the existing diesel fleet to electric vehicles,” said Dr. Hikyu Lee, president & CEO of OLEV Technologies.

According to Lee, the technology will result in an annual greenhouse gas reduction of 289 tons of CO2, with a total reduction of 3,455 tons over the lifetime of the project. Projected annual energy savings will amount to 2,596 million Btus, with a total 31,149 million saved over the lifetime of the project.

“We are delighted that our technology has been selected for funding to showcase the near-term and long-term benefits of electric buses via wireless power transfer technology, a zero tailpipe emission green transportation solution,” said Lee. “We received very strong support from our Senator, John Kerry (D–MA), and we’re grateful for the efforts he and his staff put forward on our behalf.”

Originally invented at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), the technology allows vehicles to charge wirelessly through road-embedded power tracks. The system uses “shaped magnetic field in resonance (SMFIR) technology to overcome hurdles related to current, voltage, and frequency, the company said.

According to OLEV, the technology has major benefits over typical electric vehicle systems, chiefly the ability to provide unlimited driving range and the utilization of a smaller battery, thereby reducing weight. Also, no direct contact is needed, allowing vehicles to simply drive over the equipped roadbed to be charged.

And because the vehicle is continuously charged, there is no need to install expensive recharging stations or wait 8 or 10 hours while a vehicle is charged, the company said.

“It is about improving the environment,” said City of McAllen Transit Director Elizabeth Suarez, who oversees McAllen’s bus fleet, noting that the project is a joint partnership with the McAllen Economic Development Corp., South Texas College along with OLEV Technologies. “We will have a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which means less pollution. It will save us money. We will save about 80% of our diesel bill.”

“Using cutting edge technology to help our residents with transportation is very exciting,” said McAllen Mayor Richard Cortez. “It is an honor to be selected for such a competitive grant, and we are very appreciative of our Congressman Henry Cuellar’s efforts to secure these funds for McAllen. This is a big investment that will pay off for all of us.”

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