Published: Dec. 15, 2014
Illustration of electric vehicle

For their senior project, the League of Extraordinary Engineers Team (LEET) is building a 1/10th scale model of an electric vehicle. But this is no ordinary model car - this one can be wirelessly powered by the road beneath it.

The team's work is building off of a public transportation project in Korea, which created electric vehicles that could be powered by or recharge their batteries from electric power strips under the road. The system is meant to decrease the number of trips to charging stations needed per day by increasing the effective range of electric vehicles.

But LEET's project puts a new spin on the technology, based on the latest trend in power electronics.

"We want to see if we can change from inductive charging to capacitive charging," team member Conrad Hougen said. "We want to see what kind of power efficiencies we can get."

The group has already built many of the necessary components, including the capacitor plate, wireless transmission, rectifier and microcontrollers. Next semester, they'll finish building a test bench for the project so they can easily swap out components and measure how much power is being transferred versus how much is being received.

Hougen said it's been exciting for the team to see all of the project's moving parts come together into a working prototype. "The next steps will be tuning the prototype to optimize power transfer and doing some mathematical modeling to see how well our project scales to a full-size vehicle."

And thanks to a $500 award from the Denver Joint Chapter of the IEEE PES/IAS, the team has the funding they need to complete their project. In November, LEET presented in the organization's PK Sen Student Design Competition, where there project impressed several dozen judges from industry.

In addition to Hougen, LEET members include senior ECEE majors James Pentz, Zachary Vogel, Sean Wilson and Vince Coghlan. The team is advised by professors Zoya Popovic and Khurram Afridi, and additional guidance has been provided by graduate students Chieh-kai Chang, Ashish Kumar and Guilherme Goularte.