Can an electric vehicle charge itself?
In some variations, it can. Regenerative braking is becoming a standard in all new electric cars. This will charge your car every time you take your foot of the pedal. The car will slowly break (depending on the setting) and will convert this momentum energy to electrical energy and recharge the battery with it.
Regenerative braking will typically add 10-30% extra range, depending on how effective it is, your driving style and the setting. Typically you can edit the “hardness” of the braking to your liking. The softer you set it to brake the less extra range will be added. The more you set it to brake for you the more range you’ll get out of it.
If can be pretty weird to get used to, but once you’ve driven a couple of days or weeks with it, you’ll absolutely love it. I hardly even use my brakes anymore, not even on highways and it feels so good to see how much energy or range you’ve gained by not touching your brakes. And even better, it won’t tare down your brakes either. If you drive with regenerative braking all the time, it’s not even sure you are ever going to need to change brake discs again. I pretty much only use my brakes when there is no other option, like if something critical happens on the highway or if I need to come to a complete stop, then I’ll break the last bit.
Other ways an EV can charge itself
- An EV could potentially drive itself to the nearest charging station and plug itself into the outlet. Imagine if you are out shopping or going out for dinner, but you wouldn’t be able to reach home without going to charge up at a station and the station is placed pretty inconveniently. It would be so nice to just tell the car to go charge itself and come back at 20 pm. or to just summon it back when needed. “Hey car, please go charge yourself to 60% and come back.” How freaking cool. This technology is not even that far fetched at all. If you are reading this a year from now, it might even be your current reality.
- Several pilot projects to make eRoads has taken place. An eRoad is a road that actually charges your car while driving. This is done with roughly speaking, the same technology as in wireless charging for smartphones today. So while you are driving the wheels will generate a magnetic charge when spinning around and in turn feed this energy to the battery. There is a lot of non-solved issues around this though, like heat dissipation and material needs. This would require a shit ton of copper.
- Battery exchange or battery swap. This has been tried out several times, even by Tesla. I think it could still work great in certain scenarios or with certain types of vehicles. The idea is to just swap the whole battery for a new fully charged battery. It would require huge infrastructure and a huge amount of new engineering for this to be viable. But if the right use case is there I think it’ll happen. Maybe for busses or trucks?
- Intelligent cables could be a thing. Imagine a cable that’ll register that the car is next to it and when just plug itself into the car automatically. This will just happen as you park in your garage as always. No more thinking about charging for next days use. Technology for this already exists. I imagine that this will be introduced when the EV market is big enough so the scale of the economy can take place.
- Innovation through standardization. One thing that’ll happen very soon and is also taking place as I write this is the standardization of outlets and plugs in EV’s and charging stations. Right now there is few standard but many third parties on the market. Soon the third parties will just pick the standard. Take for example the phone market. USB-C and Lightning, this is what you’ll find now, that’s it. 10 years ago every brand had its own charger and cable type and now it’s down to two, and soon it’ll be down to just one, which will obviously be USB-C. This will also happen with charging equipment for EV’s because the market i.e. the customers want simplicity. This standardization will cause a huge leap in innovation and products that’ll come to market. Now startups don’t have to risk going with a certain charger and will be able to bring their product to market much cheaper and sooner. We’ll see a lot of different options to charge your EV in the next 5-10 years, I promise you that.