Fossil Fuels going Extinct

It was Earth Day this weekend, and this has inspired me to take a slightly different take on the usual blogs here. As great as the development of new tech that makes our lives easier is, the  new tech that saves the environment is leaps and bounds more important. In this category, I think that the United States should take a page out of Sweden’s book. They are one of the first countries to come out and give a year by which they have plans to be completely independent from the use of fossil fuels and solely use renewable energy. Recently, the Swedish government unveiled their first plans for a completely emissions-free roadway system.

Whereas many governments have said that they are pushing for citizens to buy electric cars to alleviate dependence on fossil fuels, or only sell electric cars in the upcoming years like Norway and the Netherlands, Sweden is the only one as of now that has actually made strides to make this future a more feasible reality. Around 1.2 miles of electric rail have been built into a public road just outside Stockholm, and plans are in place to expand the project throughout other parts of the country and the world. This rail system is unlike anything else built before, and has the potential to reshape the electric car industry.

This rail system can be built right into existing roads, and thus does not have a high development and installation cost. What the system is is an electrified road that works by transferring energy from the rail through a moveable arm on the bottom of an electric car or truck. As the vehicle moves over the rail, the arm detects its location and moves into contact with it and when overtaking, the arm automatically raises. The rail is then connected to a sectioned power grid which allows the arms to only be powered when actually in use. The whole system can work without having to slow down the car in the slightest, and functions as a normal road for those who do not have an electric car yet. The system also tracks which car is powered by the system at each specific time, and from that bills the drivers for the energy used. In my opinion, the most important aspect of this system is that it would completely nullify the biggest hindrance on electric vehicles today: the range.

Imagine being able to drive from here to California in one go, only stopping when you want to and not having to stop once for gas. And then imagine doing this in a way that is ultimately much better for the environment than with gas. Hypothetically, your electric car would have unlimited range as long as it is driving on roads that are equipped with this system.

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As of 2017, the United States consumes almost 20 million barrels of petroleum per day. The electrified road system could drastically cut these numbers. It is still yet to be seen how feasible this electrified road system is, but if it proves to be as effective as it could be, the entire transportation industry could be changed forever. This system could eventually be expanded to include public transport as well as personal transport. We’ve already got smart toilets; its about time that we got smart with the environment.

8 comments

  1. What a cool concept! I definitely agree that if electric vehicles are to be widely accepted, the technology and infrastructure surrounding their use needs to be as convenient as possible. I wonder, though, about the durability of the rails – if cars are constantly connecting and disconnecting the roads may require continuous maintenance. It will be interesting to see if these electric rails are the best solution or if other options, like developing long-range batteries or even wireless chargers, will prove easier to implement on a large scale.

  2. This is definitely a cool idea and one that should be taken seriously. We have talked a lot about how electric cars are the future, so I think these rails would be accepted in the US. Range is one of the biggest issues for sure, especially since there aren’t as many charging station as there are gas stations these days. I think this would be a great alternative but I do wonder how they would be powered and how much energy they would consume. I am also curious to know how this would be paid for by drivers or if electric car companies are willing to add the charging part to their cars.

  3. Molly Pighini · · Reply

    This was a great idea for your post…unique and timely! I am always impressed by the environmental work that is done in European nations. Sweden is surely one of the best so I am not surprised they are the first to roll out such a concept. It reminds me a lot of electric streetcars that were so common in the past in cities like Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco. While these ran on tracks in the ground and connected to wires above, the electric rail shown in the video does not seem like a huge departure. Eventually, for cultural and economic reasons, these cars were discontinued or their use diminished in many cities, which makes me wonder about the feasibility/longevity of a system such as this. In smaller, environmentally focused countries like Sweden, I could see this becoming a widespread reality in the near future. In a country as big as the United States, however, I think it will be quite difficult to build the infrastructure enough that this could be widely used (at least in our lifetime). As we have seen in recent years, technology does have the power to propel us to places we never imagined so who knows!

  4. Nice post, Oliver! Today being the Earth day, I saw several videos that spread the message of the importance of protecting the earth with conscious efforts to reduce carbon and gas usage. Europe is definitely ahead of the U.S. indeed. And I find Sweden’s implementation of this technology on the road already! I especially find its capability of allowing normal cars to drive on the same road superb because it greatly reduces feasibility risks for many fuel-based car owners to switch in the long run. I am just curious how the charging hand located at the bottom of a car detects the charging rail.

    In regards to its implementation on a larger scale, I believe it’s possible for sure. Earlier when it was not normal for a household to own a car, building highways sounded like a ridiculous idea for many. Even in Korea, policies to build highway roads were backlashed immensely because many thought they were wasting money. Now, they would in fact want another one if space permits due to an extensive amount of cars. Although it may seem costly and extra right now, it may have been a great preparation for the future traffic with the spread of electric cars.

  5. Posts like these make me sleep better at night. Im currently in climate change and society and we basically talk about how dire the climate situation is roughly 3 times a week. I am literally writing this post in class and my professor is talking about numerous factors which lead us to inaction with regards to climate change.

    The road system that you highlighted in your post is really cool and seems promising. I hope Sweden’s efforts prove successful, which could allow for a proof-of-concept that prompts other governments into action.

  6. Someone tweeted a while back about a similar project: an inductive road charging system being created by Qualcomm. That system is cool because the car doesn’t have to connect to anything, you just drive over the charging rail. Although, I was skeptical because the installation looked too complicated to scale. The project in Sweden you just shared seems to have a much simpler installation so maybe it has more potential?
    A big issue is where our power is coming from. Sweden, and other European countries, produce most of their power from nuclear, hydroelectric, or other renewable sources. Whereas the US produces most from fossil-fuel sources. Implementing a system like this in the US would curb our dependence on gasoline for our cars. But that benefit could be offset some if the increased electricity usage is coming from a “dirty” power plant.

  7. That’s an awesome concept. I am not surprised that they thought about it in Sweden. Scandinavian countries are always very progressive when it comes to environment. My cousin lived there for a year and she told me they have to separate their recycling into 17 different bins. It seems like a great solution to solve the range problem of electric cars. I also think that such roads can work great in smaller, more densely populated countries like Sweden. However, I think it would be extremely expensive and uneconomical to build such roads in large countries like the US. Or at least to build them across the entire US. There are so many areas in the US where few people live so it does not make sense to invest in such roads in states like Arkansas for example where they would be rarely used. But I do believe that this concept can work great in populated metropolitan areas. And in general as technology develops and becomes more widespread it can expand into the entire country.

  8. While this technology could be worthwhile in areas of high population density, conversations about criss-crossing the country with this tech will most likely end in the same fashion that high speed railways were quashed. The up front capital costs would prove near impossible to drum up and gaining government approval would be fraught with roadblocks and partisan debate. However, I believe that on a regional basis, these initiatives could possibly gain ground, and more importantly that a better transnational transportation approach is being pursued in the private sector currently: the hyper loop. Elon Musk’s challenge to engineering teams has been answered and if we’re all fortunate, we’ll witness one of the fastest theoretical transportation initiatives ever undertaken (eclipsing the speeds of modern bullet trains). Oil will soon dry up and dependence on it must continually be acknowledged in order to avoid complacency, and for that reason I’m glad you brought this topic up!

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