They have been proven to be far more energy-efficient than their gas-powered equivalents, but limited range, long charging times and high costs have prevented electric vehicles from really catching on. Researchers in Japan, though, may have come up with a breakthrough to overcome some of those obstacles by powering an electric car using short-range radio waves.
The system was jointly developed by Toyota Central R&D Labs and researchers at the Toyohashi University of Technology, and it involves converting electricity into radio frequency using high-speed inverters, which is then delivered to vehicles while they're driving using a metal track embedded just beneath the surface of the road. The electric vehicle itself is able to then conduct electricity from the RF signal using the steel belts already inside its tyres.
The system unfortunately doesn't mean you can just flip on your electric car's radio whenever you need to top off its battery, but it does mean vehicles can be almost perpetually powered while on the road, reducing the size of battery they require, and eliminating the need for charging stations dotting the country. It does however require roads to be upgraded, and the electric prototype vehicle is a tiny mobility device, so the system would have to be scaled up to support something like a Tesla. But if it means drivers of electric vehicles aren't forced to take four hour charging pit stops, it could really help EVs finally catch on. [Toyohashi University of Technology via Gizmag]