Can kinetic roads supplement electric vehicle charging?

In most cities, highways encompass a massive surface area that is expensive to maintain considering the cost of surface maintenance, lamp posts, signage, and electric vehicle charging stations. 

But over the last decade, scientists and startups have been working on a solution: the EVs themselves. By harnessing some of the energy generated from the road’s surface, electric vehicles can reduce road infrastructure and charging costs.

But how did we get here, and what does it mean for the future of electric vehicles? 

Let’s take a deep dive into the science. Don’t worry, I’ll make it easy to understand.

Energy harvesting is nothing new

Historically, researchers have long been interested in kinetic energy. This includes, for instance, research into creating energy-harvesting boots that gain energy through walking and hearable tech powered by jaw movements

Today you can see this kind of energy in action with the Power Watch, which runs on thermoelectrics. 

But it’s preceded by the ultimate yuppie status trend of the 1980s, the Quartz watch. Quartz watches are battery-powered watches that always tell the correct time. As their name suggests, they feature quartz crystals, a material that generates an electric charge through a process known as piezoelectricity

The battery sends electricity to the quartz, which makes an oscillator vibrate. These vibrations generate one electrical pulse per second, which drives the watch’s motor, ensuring a correct time. 

What does this have to with cars, you ask?

Since IoT became a thing in the 2010s, researchers have been working on using piezoelectricity to generate energy from vehicles and provide a supplement or replacement to electric vehicle charging.

Why do we need energy-harvesting roads?

Roads that harvest energy and use it to charge vehicles reduce the reliance on electric vehicle batteries, especially in large vehicles such as trucks and buses.

They also reduce vehicle charging time, reduce range anxiety, and lessen the reliance on charging stations.  

Other research areas 

Researchers and startups are explicitly working on some key areas:

energy harvesting bridge