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INNOVATE | Electricity In The Air

Despite the initial excitement, electric cars have been rolled out at an underwhelming pace. Even those drivers who yearn to say goodbye to the gas pump have some doubts: Will my battery run out during that trip to Chicago? What if I forget to plug in my car and wake up one morning to a depleted battery?

Researchers may have discovered one way to address this so-called range anxiety over electric cars. A technology called resonant magnetic coupling could one day transmit power wirelessly from the electric grid to an EV, allowing batteries to charge without being plugged in. Magnetic loops embedded in roadways could charge cars as they were being driven, a prospect that would make stopping at a gas station (or parking for hours at an electric charge station) obsolete. “Electric avenues” would also reduce the size of the batteries needed in cars, trucks, and public buses, enabling them to be lighter and more nimble.

The technology could also lead to cordless and mobile televisions, lighter battery packs for soldiers in the field, and a whole new class of medical implants. And it could finally win the war against throwaway batteries that are tossed into landfills by the billions every year.

Magnetic Personality

Marin Soljacic grew up in Croatia revering one of the country’s towering figures, the odd and brilliant electrical engineer Nikola Tesla. A century ago, Tesla made some earthshaking breakthroughs, like discovering alternating current, and came up with one spectacular dud: an 18-story tower he built on Long Island that was meant to transmit power wirelessly around the globe.


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