Can you charge an EV while driving?

Fast read

As EVs lack an alternator like traditional cars, which can generate a current to charge the battery, it is currently not possible to charge an EV while it is in motion.

Regenerative braking, however, can be used by some hybrids and plug-in hybrids with batteries to charge whilst moving.

Depending on the EV, some also feature roof-mounted solar cells that can recharge the batteries whether the vehicle is in motion or parked, but the amount of energy produced is modest.

A potential future method for charging EVs while driving is wireless induction charging, which transfers electricity to a car via metal charging plates or coils under roadways.

Can I charge my electric vehicle and drive it at the same time?

If you have ever wondered whether you can charge your EV while driving, the short answer to this question is NOT REALLY, MAYBE A LITTLE AND YES – it all depends on who you ask and what the question means.

If you are confused – well, we are too because when it comes to EVs, it’s still an evolving field. There are battery-powered EVs, Plug-in hybrid EVs and Hybrid vehicles with a battery. So you see where I am going here.

It’s an evolving technology and a bit like VHS and Betta video recorders many decades ago; different technologies or a mix of technologies are fighting for supremacy. And don’t even let me start with hydrogen-powered vehicles, which could also be in the mix of our future transport landscape.

Although EV technology has increased profoundly over the past few years and constantly evolves yearly, they cannot charge while driving. So the answer is NO.

You may be thinking, how can a petrol car charge its battery when driving? The answer is that conventionally fuelled cars have an alternator that creates a current and sends it back to the battery while driving.

But EVs and petrol cars are not designed in the same way. Since electric cars don’t contain a conventional engine, no mechanical energy or alternator can be used.

But wait – if the EV has solar cells embedded in its roof, it can charge the batteries while parking and driving – so the answer is YES – you can charge your EV while driving!

Now let’s look at cars with this feature in detail

The Hyundai Sonata is a plug-in hybrid vehicle with a 44 km EV range battery. It’s currently offering a solar roof option, too, though. But, unfortunately, with an approximate 200W roof cell capacity, such a setup will only charge about 6 km of additional driving on a sunny day. And that’s only if the car is parked in the sun all day.

Per annum, if the car is in, let’s say, Brisbane, this solar roof will generate 326 kWh of battery charge. This would allow you to drive about 2300 km with free yearly fuel. It will also save you about $400 in petrol costs p.a. As you can see, the cells look impressive on the car but don’t deliver big numbers. So you may well ask yourself, are they just a gimmick?

Even if we manage to put cells on most of the car’s surface and solve the inverter and shading challenges, the maximum that current technology will allow is a minimal 600 – 700W solar system per car.

This will give you, on average 3kWh for a full sunny-day charge. So if this car had a 500km range and a 60kWh battery, we would have to park it in a sunny spot for 20 days to fully charge the battery via the solar cells on the car.

Per annum, such a car would give us close to 8000 km worth of free travel or about 25 km daily. Much better than the Sonata, but it is still not enough for most drivers.

ev charging and driving
The future of EV charging may incorporate charging plates under our highways!

Something to be known about Hybrid cars is that they can charge their batteries while driving

It does so because every time the driver breaks the electric motor, the car gets reversed, and like a generator, it feeds energy back into the battery. These are minimal charges every time, but the cumulative effect can be pretty decent. Naturally, most energy released to drive the vehicle comes from the conventional combustion engine, which forms part of this hybrid technology.

Altogether this leads to the question, “Can electric vehicles charge while driving in the future“?

The main idea explored and researched recently is wireless induction charging. Much like how wireless charging is a common trend with your mobile phones, with the introduction of metal charging plates or coils under highways and main roads, EV owners may be able to charge while driving one day. Like a T2 lane on the streets, a designated charging lane may be helpful for electric vehicle owners.

So how would this work in detail?

Induction charging for your phone works by moving energy from an electric coil, a cable wound around a core, to another subject, such as the phone’s battery, through an electromagnetic field. In this instance, both subjects are stationary, which makes the job easier.

Applied to vehicles, this technology allows the EV car battery to be charged when the car parks over a prolonged time on top of a specific charging unit. Of course, for this to work, the electric vehicle has to have a receptor coil installed and aligned with the emitter coil in the pad – on top of which the EV is parked.

The issue with this technology is – if we park for a while, we might as well plug the car into the charger and get a more efficient result with cheaper and proven technology.

The challenge is to charge the BEV while we are driving. To achieve this, we would need to develop dynamic induction charging. The EV moves over a long series of emitter coils under the road surface in this scenario. Each time the EV drives across the ring, it will receive a boost of charge for its battery for that split second of time. As you can imagine creating lanes with many kilometres of coils embedded in them will be very expensive and require a lot of copper coils.

Given the cost and CO2 generation that such infrastructure would require, I can not see this technology being rolled out into standard city streets or laneways anytime soon.

And the answer is:

Therefore, as of the current technology in the electric vehicle industry, EVs cannot charge substantially while driving; however, regenerative braking, also used in hybrid vehicles, is one way to get a little bit of extra range when going.

Nevertheless, the future could be promising for this topic, and it would not be surprising to see EVs being able to charge while driving in a decade or so.

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