The biggest problem of electric vehicles is their battery. Whereas it seems like the capacity cannot be extended, anymore other more creative ways have to be explored. At Kojects, we introduced the battery-swapping method but there’s another method in development for Korean vehicle: Wireless charging through magnetic fields, which are directly beneath the asphalt surface of the street. This system is called “OLEV” and the world’s first system of that kind started commercial operation on last Thursday in Gumi, a city close to Daegu. This post is going to explain what OLEV means and why Gumi was chosen to be the first city.
OLEV stands for “On-Line Electric Vehicles” and basically these are vehicles that get their energy (or batteries charged) wirelessly. The power is transmitted through magnetic fields embedded in the roads. In Korea KAIST (one of the top universities, based in Daejeon) is the leading research center for this technology. They already operate OLEV-shuttle buses on their campus and a tourist train, which runs at the Seoul Grand Park since 2010. Last week, KAIST started officially the experiment in Gumi.
Development of OLEV begun 2009 at KAIST and in 2010 they already had the first prototypes ready. In October 2012, the technology advanced so far that power transfer efficiency reached 75%. This rate is enough for commercial usage. Speed of vehicles or weather conditions don’t constrain the power transfer at all. The greatest thing is that this technology reduces the size of battery to one third or one fifth of usual batteries for electric vehicles. This saves a lot of space and it makes the vehicle lighter, too. The government is funding the whole project and 60 billion KRW (around 53 million USD) from the government as funding. The vehicles look like the electric bus at Namsan:
According to KAIST, Gumi was selected because it has a good electrical infrastructure and the city government was very supportive towards the project. Besides that, Gumi tries to establish an image of a science city. Later in the post you’ll see a map of Gumi and half of the city is an industrial complex with a lot of high-tech and IT industries. Gumi is also called “Korea’s Silicon Valley”. If you look at a map of Gumi, you’ll see a lot of trees along the trees. That was part of a measure with the name “Carbon zero city”. Through planting 6.02 million trees Gumi became the first city in Korea of that program. Unfortunately, Gumi was lately in the news for chemical leaks (a large one in 2012 and one more in 2013). In the incident in 2012 an explosion killed several people and the chemical spill affected health of 3,000 people.
Routes in Gumi
2 OLEVs are going to run ten times per day through the city. Here you can see the bus route (purple line), 24 km through the city:
I sincerely hope that the operation of the OLEV is successful. Than soon other cities will follow and Korea has a great technology to export. I believe that the crucial factor for electric vehicles is the power supply and for now, OLEV seems like the best solution.