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Utah State University Breaks Ground on Electric Vehicle Test Facility

By: Charles Fleming — September25, 2014

Workers began construction Tuesday on a state-of-the-art facility that will include an electrified track, a quarter-mile long oval, that will demonstrate the effectiveness of wireless power charging.

A university in Utah has broken ground on the country’s first electric vehicle test track fitted for in-motion, wireless electrical charging. Workers at Utah State University (USU) began construction Tuesday on a state-of-the-art facility that will include an electrified track, a quarter-mile-long oval, that will demonstrate the effectiveness of wireless power charging. This technology will help address at least one of the principal blocks to more widespread adoption of electric vehicles — range, and the range anxiety that accompanies drivers afraid they’ll run out of juice before they have time to recharge.

Systems designed to charge electric vehicles, while they are at rest, already exist in pilot programs, said Regan Zane, the professor in USU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who will be in charge of the USU facility. More cutting-edge is the technology that allows the transfer of power to vehicles in motion as they pass over wireless charging stations.

“We’ll be investigating the unique challenges of charging vehicles while they’re in motion,” Zane said, in the facility’s quartermile loop — one leg of which will go indoors for up-close study. “We’ll do testing at very slow speeds, and we’ll be able to evaluate charging at speeds up to 35 mph.” One result of in-motion, wireless charging, Zane said, would be the reduction of size and weight of the batteries required to power electric vehicles.