Volvo Predicts a Slot-car Future for Over-the-road Semis

Slot-car Electric Volvo

By running electrically-charged power lines through long stretches of highway roads, Volvo hopes to offer long-haul truckers electric vehicles that don’t have to stop to re-charge. Volvo’s doing this by bringing small toy technology from the 70s and 80s back, in a big way. I’m talking, of course, about slot-cars!

Those of you who’ve reached a certain age remember a time before Nintendo and Sega (let alone XBox and PlayStation!), and you will recognize the words “slot-cars” immediately. For those of you too young to have experienced them, they worked like this …

… yeah, life before GranTurismo and Forza was pretty lame.

In any event, the slot-cars worked by having an electric wire running across the track. The wire(s) provided power to a tiny electric motor mounted in a chassis about the size of a HotWheels car. The combination was usually good for scale speeds well in excess of 200 mph. Volvo’s not looking to scale up the speeds of the tiny racers, but they are looking to scale up the idea of powering an electric motor in a moving vehicle without resorting to on-board batteries.

In practice, the two power lines run along the road’s entire length (one positive, one negative). The lines are spaced so that live current is only delivered to a specialized collector mounted at the rear of, or under, the truck. As an additional safety measure (this is Volvo, after all), the current flows only when the vehicle is moving at speeds over 35 mph.

The first vehicles to use such a system could well be Volvo’s own hybrid busses, rather than full EVs, to help guard against short power interruptions and enable the trucks to spend more time in their EV cycles.

As of yet, there is no word on how such rails would cook impact any chickens trying to cross the road.


Source: Volvo, via Gizmag.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.