If you’ve got an electric car in the United States, the distance between charging stations could make a long road trip fraught with anxiety. But what if the highway you’re riding on recharged your car as your drove it, no stops required?
The U.K., through a group called Highways England, is about to begin trials on electric highways which will see inductive charging equipment fitted underneath roads. When electric cars drive on them, their batteries would be juiced up as they drove by wireless technology running under the asphalt.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones says the U.K. government is committing around $780 million over the next five years to develop rechargeable low-emission vehicles, aiming to “keep Britain at the forefront of this technology.” As part of this overall initiative, the off-road trials will start later this year, and last for 18 months, while the government figures out the cost and feasibility of bringing it to the nation’s highways.
So it’ll be a while before Brits can drive their Teslas indefinitely down the M25 without stopping for “gas.” But the U.K. is not the first country to look into smart highways. A similar project in the Netherlands imagined a Smart Highway that could charge electric cars as they drove. This is clearly a path more than one country is considering pursuing.
From a civic standpoint, it makes sense. Not only are electric vehicles more environmentally friendly than traditional combustion engines, but they cost less money over time to actually keep on the road. An electric highway would presumably come with some sort of toll, allowing cars to slurp up the government’s electricity as they drove; this, in turn, would help the government bring in more revenues. The toll booth of the future might not be all that different from pulling into a gas station today.
The U.K.’s flirtation with electric highways is part of a $17 billion, five-year plan undertaken to transform England’s existing “brutal, crass, and ugly” ecosystem into something “beautiful and award-winning,” according to transport minister John Hayes. “We want roads to be based upon principles of good design, he said. “From maintaining the right proportions in construction to use of street lighting, signage and other roads ‘furniture’ and from delivering better air quality and biodiversity.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if America, which has been letting its own infrastructure crumble for decades, tried something similar?