INTERVIEW by DANIELLE OLIVER | PHOTOGRAPHY courtesy of TAKASHI OHIRA
The electric vehicle already exists, so let’s think a little bigger. Would it be possible for an electric vehicle to charge as it’s driving? In other words, would it be possible for an electric vehicle to have no need for a battery on board? Takashi Ohira and seven researchers at the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan think so. In fact, their research (only twenty months in) has already proven this fantasy will soon become a reality for the auto industry. Their idea relies on transmitting an electric current to the tires from a charging system placed under the road, and it’s going to redefine everything we previously thought possible.
Oh, and if you’re an innovator and think you’ve got an idea — like Takashi’s — that will change the world, check out NissanInnovationGarage.com; they’re providing two outstanding innovators with $50,000 to jumpstart their ideas. (Plus a new Altima. Plus a Kickstarter campaign.) It could be you, so don’t hesitate! You might be our next BR!NKer.
The next phase of research for the development of the electric car is finding a way for the vehicle to charge while driving. That seems to be exactly what you’re doing with the Electric Vehicle on Electrified Roadway (EVER) project. What is the goal of your research?
The goal of our research is to make a four-seater EV run without battery on-board.
The success you’ve had already is exciting. Can you explain what you’ve accomplished? And how were you able to produce more power than others who had used your same technique before?
We have accomplished the world’s first experiment on transmitting electric current through wheels, even rubber tires. Nobody on earth has used the same technique before.
What are the implications of this discovery? What does it mean for the future of this research and for electric cars?
The accomplishment implies that EVs can be powered while they are running. This is analogous to electric trams or trains. It means a drastic extension of an EV’s cruising range.
I read that the power transfer you’ve created would have to be scaled 100 times to power an actual engine. What is the next step towards harnessing this amount of power? And what is the next hurdle to overcome?
Exactly, it has to. The next step is to prototype a high-power generator and rectifier to confirm how the system performs in scaling. The next hurdle depends on what is found in the high-power experiment.
Can you tell me a bit about your background? What prompted you to pursue the career you have now?
In my childhood, I felt vehicles were consuming much more energy than essentially necessary. Every time I saw a tank truck carrying gasoline to a gas station, I thought that these trucks consume such a large amount of gasoline to drive themselves — heavier than their payloads.
Is there something about your work that really makes you excited? Perhaps contributing to the progression of technology, or the promise of positive environmental impact?
Yes, there is. More than 200,000,000 tons of CO2 are currently expelled a year from vehicles only in Japan, for instance. We have a dream to replace all the gasoline engines with EVs, and save our planet from an irreparable crisis.
Where do you think the automotive industry will be in 2040? Can you make a guess at the type of innovation that will occur, and what it will look like for drivers everywhere?
We never make plans that far ahead. We have to make our dream come true in five to ten years.
If there was one other worldwide problem (technological or otherwise) that you would like to try to fix in the future, what would it be?
We are concentrating all our energy into the current project.
Is there anything you would like to tell our readers?
Imagine there is no CO2 exhaust. Imagine there is no NOx. No global warming, either. Imagine all the vehicles, running in serenity. You may say I am a dreamer. But I am not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. The world will be green.
Share your everyday innovation and you could win a $50,000 grant and the most innovative Nissan Altima ever. We’ll even unleash the winning ideas on Kickstarter. After that, anything can happen. Get started by entering your idea now at NissanInnovationGarage.com