Scalextric-style UK road to be built that charges electric cars as they go

Britain is to build a Scalextric-style road that can charge electric cars as they go.

Researchers are probing the feasibility of embedding chargers beneath carriageway surfaces to power cars, vans, buses and lorries – similar to the tracks in the children's motor racing game.

The first is set to be built in Coventry for trials to begin within the next two years.

Sceptics fear the system will be expensive, inefficient and may not be compatible with all vehicles.

The West Midlands trial will seek to establish if the technology could work particularly for buses and HGVs which are constantly on the move and need more power than cars.

It works by laying a small wireless charger beneath the asphalt.

A receiver on the bottom of a vehicle would pick up the charge and relay it to the battery.

The scheme is being led by electricity operator Western Power Distribution which – along with energy regulator Ofgem – is ploughing £417,000 into the project.

Consultancy Cenex (corr) will review existing research into the technology before Coventry University begins a more comprehensive feasibility study.

The results are expected by February 2022.

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Western Power said that its trial, which involves Coventry city council and Toyota, could help encourage the mass adoption of electric vehicles by overcoming significant barriers around charging and range anxiety'.

Wireless charging has already been introduced for smartphones but is in its infancy for electric vehicles. Highways England considered a trial of the system five years ago but it was suspended.

At the beginning of the year the Department for Transport announced a £3.4 million trial of wireless charging on a taxi rank next to Nottingham railway station.

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The system, which charges vehicles as they wait to pick up passengers, was designed to assess the convenience, speed and time-saving benefits.

More than 144,000 pure electric or plug-in hybrids vehicles— have been sold so far this year – more than double the number last year (2019). But the availability of roadside chargers remains a barrier for some motorists – particularly one third of households without off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

Western Power innovation and low carbon network engineer Ricky Duke said: "The ability to charge your vehicle while on the move would be a massive game-changer for the nation.''

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