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OLEV-powered buses enter regular use in Korea


August 5, 2013

One of Gumi's two new buses that will draw power from the road using the Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) system

One of Gumi's two new buses that will draw power from the road using the Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) system

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As of this Tuesday (August 6th) the South Korean city of Gumi’s transit system will see the addition of two electric buses that draw their power from the road. It’s the latest step in the development of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology's (KAIST's) Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) system, in which electric cables embedded in the asphalt provide power to vehicles traveling on its surface.

The appeal of OLEV lies in the fact that electric vehicles using the system don’t have to be equipped with large, heavy batteries, they don’t have to stop to recharge, and messy overhead trolley lines aren’t required. Instead, the cables in the road produce magnetic fields, which receiving devices in the vehicles’ undersides pick up and convert into electricity. It can be a continuous process, or cables can be placed in separate locations along the road, providing ongoing top-ups to a relatively small battery within the vehicle. Typically, only about 5 to 15 percent of the road surface needs to be excavated for the embedding of the cables.

The buses will run a 24-km (15-mile) round trip route in Gumi’s inner city between the train station and the In-dong district. They will maintain a 17-cm (6.7-in) gap between their underbodies and the asphalt the whole time, receiving 20 kHz and 100 kW (136 horsepower) of electricity at a maximum power transmission efficiency of 85 percent.

EMF (electromagnetic field) levels within the buses are reportedly well within safe limits, plus the cables in the road only switch on when they detect the presence of one of the buses overhead – this should minimize pedestrians’ and other vehicles’ exposure to the magnetic fields, and will also save power.

Although this will mark the first time that OLEV is used in a public transit system, the technology has previously been tested in a tram at an amusement park in Seoul. Assuming all goes well with the two buses in Gumi, the city plans to add an additional 10 such vehicles to its fleet by 2015.

Source: KAIST

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

It's nice to get overhead powerlines out of view, but what happens to cables buried in the street when that street gets potholes?

Ashley Zinyk

Well, this is merely a new twist on a very old idea. I know that in London there were trams that used rails rather than overhead wires for electricity well before WW2. If you don't object to the overhead wires then there was the "trolley bus" which had rubber tyres just like a bus.


It would be interesting to see the cost for this kind of installation and a comparison to track less trolley lines and buses with fast charged batteries.

Alexander Engman

I like the part where they only need 15% of the road dug up. As it says, much smaller batteries can be used, or even super capacitors ! Chuck in flywheel energy storage and your on your way. I just wonder how they'd prevent energy theft.


Was there a reason the word, 'induction' wasn't used?? We've been powering things with induction for quite a while now. This is the first example I've seen of it used on a vehicle. Is the word 'Induction' taboo in South Korea?

Dan Lewis

Very promising initial development. They have a system for charging people for the electricity.

Paul Bedichek

Despite being notably opposed to the stupidity of stored energy EVs, I like this and even think having the bus have enough batteries for going a couple clicks off the "wire" is a good idea for detours and getting around the maintenance yard. I would prefer an electrical connection allowing power to be pushed back into the grid but this does avoid the risk of electrocution and the inconveniences of having over head wires.


South Korea has ice and snow in the winter, how much electricity goes through ice and snow. Do they first plow the snow with one truck before they let the bus use the road? I like the idea though, it needs to be tried in major cities in the US to cut down on massive engine exhaust.

Yellow River

re; Yellow River

Magnetic fields go right through water frozen or not.


I saw this idea in a video game

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