Formulec EF01 electric race carEnlarge Photo
Snatching a charge as you wait at a stoplight or even drive, without wires, charging stations, or any other external encumbrance? It seems positively magical.
But it could soon be reality for electric race cars, thanks to HaloIPT in partnership wth Drayson Racing Technologies.
As with conventional cars, motorsports is a great forum for innovation in new electric car technology. The controlled environment, purpose-built rule sets, and deep pockets behind racing endeavors make for an easy platform for testing and evaluation of emerging methods and materials.
That's precisely what HaloIPT and Drayson Racing hope to achieve with their new joint effort to install inductive charging pads in the pit lanes, and, eventually, the actual surface of the race track--though which track, specifically, will be used as the test bed hasn't been revealed.
The basic idea of inductive charging involves the creation of an electromagnetic field through coiled wires in the road bed, to induce a complementary charge in similar coils in the electric car above it. You may be familiar with the process through the much smaller-scale plug-less charging of the Powermat inductive charger for cell phones and other small electronics.
The physics of this short-range wireless transfer of electricity are sound; it's the practicality of digging up millions of miles of roadway and installing the pricey inductive charging circuits that's the big hurdle right now. That's why a track application makes sense.
HaloIPT and Drayson plan to start their effort with pit lane charging stations, allowing electric cars to refuel much like their gasoline-fed counterparts. Of course, without innovations in battery technology or the use of capacitor-based energy storage systems, the charge times will be much longer than a traditional pit stop.
Once the in-track chargers are in place, however, the system could enable things currently impossible in electric car racing, like true 24-hour endurance racing. The constant charge from the circuit itself could also enable much lighter race cars to be built, with much smaller battery packs that don't need to store as much power on board, as they continually siphon power from the track.
That, in turn, could allow design and construction of lighter, more powerful electric cars than current battery technology would otherwise permit.
While the inductive charging plan for race tracks remains an unproven proposal, itself in the nascent stages of development, the potential it holds to advance innovation and evolution in electric-powered motorsports is exciting. As Drayson puts it, "We're looking forward to putting this technology through its paces as it charges electric race cars at speeds of up to 200 mph."
Electric NASCAR, anyone?