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Korean Bus Charges Itself While Driving

Commuters in South Korea today start taking an EV bus, free of range anxiety

1 min read
Korean Bus Charges Itself While Driving

Electric vehicles would have a lot more appeal if they didn't have to stand for hours while recharging their batteries. One solution is to recharge them while they move, as engineers at Korea's KAIST proposed in IEEE Spectrum back in March.

KAIST's online electric vehicle (OLEV) system has already demonstrated trams that recharge themselves while circling city parks. Today the OLEV system goes into operation on a regular commuter route in Gumi, a city in central South Korea. Two buses will ply the route, which has a roundtrip of 24 kilometers. By the end of the year, the city plans to add 10 more buses.

The scheme recalls the Greek myth of the giant Antaeus, who drew his monstrous strength from contact with the earth but was no stronger than mere mortals when held high above it. So, too, the buses in the KAIST system carry light, relatively inexpensive lithium-ion batteries but can keep on going indefinitely thanks to power beamed up to them from the road. That banishes a big bugbear of all-electric transport: range anxiety.

Underground coils produce a shaped magnetic field that resonates with receiving coils on the vehicle, transferring power so efficiently that only 5 to 15 percent of the roadway need carry the embedded gear. The buried coils save power another way, as well: they turn on only when they sense a properly equipped vehicle overhead.


Photo: KAIST

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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