Magnetic-powered Trams in South Korea a World First





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Published on Jul 20, 2011

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South Korea has introduced three novel electric vehicles powered by magnetic fields at a Seoul amusement park. The technology uses magnets and road-based electric power and will soon be used to propel trams throughout the city.

Something new is in the air at the Seoul Grand Park in the capital of South Korea. And that something is a novel way of powering electric vehicles through thin air.

Three On-Line Electric Vehicles, or OLEV, were launched at the Seoul Grand Park on Tuesday.

The eco-friendly electric trams use no fossil fuels and don't need any overhead wires or cables.

Instead, they're propelled by a magnetic field, created by power lines embedded at intervals in the road.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) developed the OLEV system.

[Suh Nam-Pyo, President of KAIST]:
"This technology is based on what we call 'SMFIR,' Shaped Magnetic Field in Residence. The idea is to send magnetic field through open space and then catch it at the other end by using residence. So this idea of transmitting large amount of power over large distances, in this case 25 centimeters, is very new. Many people thought it could not be done."

The institute says that by putting the power supply in the road, the OLEV system gets around the problem that conventional electric vehicles face, and that is the problem of recharging.

The OLEV system uses wireless magnetic field sensors that supply power to the vehicles even while driving.

This non-contact transfer of electricity, also called inductive charging, works by connecting magnets and cables on the underside of the vehicles.

This works together with the current in the road-based recharging strip to receive power as they travel over it.

The recharging strips would be laid in places such as bus lanes and the roads running up to intersections so that vehicles could power up where traffic slows down.

Unlike electric lines used for trams, vehicles don't need to be in constant contact with the strips and a person can touch the lines without receiving a shock.

The three electric trams have replaced the old diesel-powered carts used by passengers for transportation inside the park.

The Seoul government agreed to test the technology with trams at the amusement park, and later with some public buses.

Their aim is to gradually introduce and expand eco-friendly public transportation to the city.

[Jeong Yon-chan, Assistant Mayor, Seoul]:
"Seoul city government plans to expand providing more OLEV vehicles as well as ordinary electric vehicles to each division of our city."

Visitors were happy to take the tram for the first time in that park.

[Nam Seon-mi, Visitor]:
"Nowadays, many people have interest in environmental matters. I am happy to experience to ride an electric vehicle with my children. I am also happy that my children will have more interest in nature."


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