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Electric car track to be built at USU

By: Kevin Opsahl — June28, 2014 --The Herald Journal

Utah State University is set to build a test track on campus to research the concept of electric vehicles being powered wirelessly while in transit.

The USU Board of Trustees approved the deal on Friday. The deal has been sent to the Board of Regents, Utah’s higher education governing board, for review.

The test track will accommodate standard passenger cars all the way on up to large buses.

Per the Associated Press: “The plan calls for Woodbury Corporation of Utah and USU to build a 4,800-square-foot facility and an oval-shaped vehicle test track at the interdisciplinary USU innovation Campus research center.”

The University hopes to begin the self-funded project this fall. There’s no deadline set for completion as of yet.

Rob Behunin, vice president for commercialization and advancement, called it “the next generation of technology in our wireless power transfer program.”

“As we look to the opportunities to be environmentally conscious and to cut tailpipe emissions, moving this research forward to an electrified highway that increases the range of our electric vehicles — which right now, is limited — is better for our roadways.”

Over the last few years, USU has worked with the USU Research Foundation and a USU spin-out company called WAVE, based out of Park City, to develop technology that would allow a bus to charge wirelessly while parked on an electrical charging pad. The technology was unveiled by USU in 2012, and it was announced at that time that there would be a track developed to test the technology.

“There’s a lot of good science to do,” Behunin said, noting that the university is also pursuing a proposal to the National Science Foundation for a “10-year millstone plan for Electrified Transportation.”

“The desire to move along this trajectory from stationary charging to in-motion charging has always been part of the research (strategy),” the USU vice president said. “There are lots of issues if you think a car is going to move on an electrified highway. You have to have load balancing and level of charge; you have to have interoperatiability between different cars and the roadway — manufacturers have to have the same kind of consistency. This is all going to be very groundbreaking research. It’s about working out the bugs, the challenges and the science.”

USU hopes that the track and accompanying features will attract interest from other research groups and companies to use to test their products.

Behunin said officials are hoping to break ground on the track by late summer or early fall.

USU’s research on wireless power transfer and the installation of the track are among a number of endeavors the university is pursuing. WAVE has long worked with the University of Utah to develop a wireless roadway that would power a bus to provide transportation on campus. It is anticipated that the electric bus will be running on the University of Utah campus sometime this fall, a UofU spokeswoman said.