USU's Science Unwrapped: A future striving towards electric avenues
New technology being developed at Utah State University’s test track could pave the way for a more electrified transportation system that is better for the environment and the pocketbook.
An Engineer Research Center called ASPIRE (Advancing Sustainability through Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification) is stationed just a few miles north of Utah State University. It is a multi-university National Science Foundation test track. ASPIRE has been conducting some leading research to help tackle some of the most pressing issues with modern transportation.
“Our primary objectives here at ASPIRE are to improve the environment, decrease cost of transportation and improve access and equity in transportation,” said Reagan Zane, the Director of ASPIRE and USU professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Zane was featured at this month's USU Science Unwrapped event. He said ASPIRE is addressing the next major barrier to adopt broad electrification, that means the transportation infrastructure and charging systems that support electric vehicles.
"We see this as a tremendous opportunity to create a change that we haven't seen In 100 years, and that's a major shift in the fundamental way that these vehicles are operating, and then shifting away from being limited by any specific energy source to those vehicles," Zane said.
Zane explains the challenges to achieving widespread adoption of electrification across vehicles are all centered around the battery.
“Not only is it the cost of the battery, but there are further challenges that battery is still large, it has a significant weight, which we haven't talked a lot about, but electric vehicles are actually quite heavy," Zane said. "It also impacts the mining of the materials and the sustainability of the development of the batteries. So the environmental impact of the battery is a big question.”
ASPIRE is also reassessing how we are charging vehicles and the way that interacts with the energy grid.
One project underway is wireless dynamic charging, allowing vehicles to drive as they charge, reducing the need for large heavy batteries and charging stops while traveling.
“Moving towards these electric roads, allows us to have vehicles become a resource to the grid, support more renewable energy on the grid, and decrease cost for transportation," Zane said.