Why Can’t Electric Cars Charge Themselves

With technology advancing at such a fast rate, you may be wondering why can’t electric cars charge themselves yet.

The simple answer is that the technology doesn’t exist yet to achieve this. 

There have been inroads to achieve this, but scientists, developers and manufacturers are still far from achieving self-charging electric cars. 

With no charging infrastructure and little support from governments, it’s likely to be a while before we say any real progress on self-charging EVs. 

Let’s dig deeper to see what we can expect in the future..

Attempted Methods for Self-Charging EVs

car charging

There are a handful of different methods that have been tried to achieve self-charging, below we list each one along with the challenges as to why insufficient as standalone charging solutions:

Wireless Charging – Lithium-ion batteries are used in electric vehicles like smartphones, so wireless charging isn’t a million miles away. However, the type of charging uses electromagnetic induction and would take considerable time to develop and roll out in bulk. 

Generators/Alternators – To achieve this, you must attach a generator and alternator to the EV’s wheels. Wind turbine technology would power these, but electric vehicles are already very heavy due to their batteries, which would only make them heavier.

Solar Panels – This is the most likely option, as some companies have already started trying to develop a working solar-powered electric car.

Why Can’t Solar Panels Work

There are a few reasons why it’s so difficult to charge an electric car using solar whilst driving:

Slow Charging – If you need to drive long journeys, the solar panels won’t charge fast enough to allow you to travel the distance you require.

Untested – There are very few companies globally that have the capability to test this; therefore, it’s unclear whether it’s safe and viable.

Very Expensive – Like anything that is brand new, you’re going to pay well over the odds for it. An example of this would be the Lightyear 0, which starts at just shy of £250,000.

The Challenge of Efficiency

Unfortunately, electric vehicles can’t charge themselves due to energy inefficiency. The Grid is normally the external power source that charges EVs, and although regenerative braking and solar panels have been discussed, there not sufficient. 

Regenerative braking only recoups a small fraction of energy, whilst solar panels, although the most promising, can’t produce enough power due to efficiency and space limitations. There is always ongoing research to try and develop self-charging electric cars, but there needs to be heavy investment in R&D if we are to see any significant progress in the next couple of decades. 

Innovative Developments and Future Prospects

There are a number of barriers that are hindering the development, the major ones are finance, science and politics.

Finance 

The amount of money that needs to be injected into R&D alone, let alone the infrastructure that would follow, is not feasible. The charging infrastructure in the UK is already behind compared to the number of EVs on the roads. Hence, the government can’t invest in another project whilst there still struggling to cope with the demand for public electric vehicle charging.

Politics

Without the backing of parliament, no party will push the initiative of self-charging electric vehicles. There are already concerns about the environmental impact electric cars could still have due to their batteries. Opinions won’t change anytime soon until you see drastic breakthroughs in the field. 

Science

By far the most important, the technology simply isn’t ready yet. The theories we discussed earlier in the article are precisely those. There are still many obstacles to overcome, such as solar chargers at a slow speed and generators can’t capture all the kinetic energy, making them less effective. 

But like everything, there are scientific breakthroughs all the time and just like in previous decades, someone will eventually work it out. 

Is Regenerative Braking a Form of Self-Charging?

Regenerative braking is a form of self-charging, but it is nowhere near enough to charge an EV fully. It works by capturing kinetic energy and storing it in the battery. This is achieved by the driver lifting their foot off the accelerator or braking frequently enough. 

It’s very useful for city driving as you are constantly slowing down and using the brake or taking your foot off the accelerator. On the other hand, it’s not ideal for motorway driving, where you can go for long periods of time without braking.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this article and now understand why electric cars have yet to charge themselves when on the road. To put it simply, we’re a long way off in terms of science and money to achieve self-charging electric cars. You need both to go together so research can improve, which will lead to a faster scientific breakthrough. 

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Nick

Nick is the proud owner of a MG ZS EV and is an EV fanatic. He has been featured in notable publications like USA Today and The Times for his expertise in the field.