Online Electric Vehicle

The Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) is an electric vehicle that charges wirelessly while moving using electromagnetic induction (the wireless transfer of power through magnetic fields). It functions by using a segmented "recharging" road that induces a current in "pick-up" modules on the vehicle.

OLEV is the first public transport system that used a "recharging" road and was first launched on March 9, 2010 by The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).[1]

Mechanical Description

The OLEV system is split into two main parts: the segmented "recharging" road and the "pick-up" modules on the vehicle.

In the Road

In the "recharging" road, slim W-shaped ferrite cores (magnetic cores used in induction) are buried 30 cm underground in a fish bone like structure. Power cables are wrapped around the center of the fish bone structures to make the "primary coils". This design combines the magnetic fields of the two sides of the cables and shapes the fields in a way that maximizes induction. Moreover, the primary coils are placed in segments across certain spans of the road so that only about 5% to 15% of the road needs to be remodeled. To power the primary coils, the cables are attached to the South Korean national power grid through a power inverter. The inverter accepts 60 Hz 3-phase 380 or 440 voltage from the grid to generate 20 kHz of AC electricity into the cables. In turn, the cables create a 20 kHz magnetic field that sends flux through the slim ferrite cores to the pick-ups on the OLEV.[2][3][4][5]

On the OLEV

Attached beneath the vehicle, are "pick-up" modules, or the secondary coils, that consist of wide W-shaped ferrite cores with wires wrapped around the center. When the pick-ups "pick up" the flux from the primary coils, each pick-up gains about 17 kW of power from the induced current. This power is sent to the electric motor and battery through a regulator (a managing device that can distribute power based on need), thereby charging the OLEV wirelessly.[2][3][4][5]


Model Weight Core Shape in

Primary Coil

Core Shape in

Secondary Coil

Air Gap Between

Road and Pick-up

Power Efficiency Power Gained per Pick-up Electrical Horse Power Current in Primary Coil Additional Mechanism
Generation 1 (Small Cart) 10 kg E shape E shape 1 cm 80% 3 kW 4.02Hp 100 Amp Vertical Alignment

Mechanism for 3mm

Generation 2 (Bus) 80 kg U shape Long, flat 17 cm 72% 6 kW 8.04Hp 200 Amp Return cables for primary coils
Generation 3 (SUV) 110 kg Slim W shape Wide W shape 17 cm 71% 17 kW 22.79Hp 200 Amp None

As seen in the table above, the generation 1 OLEV lacks a realistic margin for error. The lower current means a smaller magnetic field and requires the secondary coil to be very close to the floor, which can be an issue while driving. Moreover, if the primary and secondary coils are vertically misaligned by a distance over 3mm, the power efficiency drops greatly.

To fix these issues, KAIST came up with the generation 2 OLEV. In the gen 2 OLEV, the current in the primary coil was doubled to create a stronger magnetic field that allows for a larger air gap. The ferrite cores in the primary coils were changed to a U shape and the cores in the secondary coil were changed a flat board shape to pick-up as much flux as possible. This design allows the vertical misalignment to be about 20 cm with a 50% power efficiency. However, the U shaped cores also require return cables which bumps up the cost of production. Overall, the gen 2 made up for the gen 1's margins but, was more costly.

In response to the cost issue of gen 2, the third generation OLEV was developed. The third generation OLEV, uses ultra-slim W-shaped ferrite cores in the primary coil to reduce the amount of ferrite used to 1/5 of gen 2 and to remove the need of return cables. The secondary coil uses a thicker variation of the w-shaped cores as a way to make up for the lesser area for the magnetic flux to flow through compared to gen 2. Overall, the gen 3 OLEV made up for the gen 1's small margins and gen 2's increased cost.

Benefits & Issues[6][7]


  • Zero emissions
  • 31% operating costs compared to gas powered counterparts
  • Lower maintenance and manufacturing costs
  • No charging station necessary
  • Can be stored like regular vehicles


  • Modern power grids cannot handle OLEV's on a large scale
  • Installation is costly
  • Can run out of power in heavy traffic
  • 60 mph speed limit
  • Cannot operate during power outages


KAIST announced it has applied for more than 120 patents[8] in connection with OLEV.


In November 2010, KAIST's Road-Embedded Rechargers was selected as Time's The 50 Best Inventions of 2010.[9][10]


Commercialization of the technology has not been successful, leading to a controversy over the continued public funding of the technology in 2019.[11]

See also


  1. Salmon, Andrew (3 October 2010). "Korea unveils the 'future of transport' — the Online Electric Vehicle | The Times". The Times.
  2. Lee, S.; Huh, J.; Park, C.; Choi, N. S.; Cho, G. H.; Rim, C. T. (1 September 2010). "On-Line Electric Vehicle using inductive power transfer system". 2010 IEEE Energy Conversion Congress and Exposition: 1598–1601. doi:10.1109/ECCE.2010.5618092. ISBN 978-1-4244-5286-6.
  3. Shim, H. W.; Kim, J. W.; Cho, D. H. (1 May 2014). "An analysis on power variance of SMFIR structure". 2014 IEEE Wireless Power Transfer Conference (WPTC): 189–192. doi:10.1109/WPT.2014.6839579. ISBN 978-1-4799-2923-8.
  4. Yoon, Lan (7 August 2013). "KAIST's wireless Online Electric Vehicle (OLEV) runs inner city roads". Kaist. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  5. Interdisciplinary Design: Proceedings of the 21st CIRP Design Conference. Mary Kathryn Thompson. ISBN 9788989693291.
  6. Fazal, Rehan (9 October 2013). "Online Electric Vehicle". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. Suh, N.P.; Cho, D.H.; Rim, C.T. (2011). "Design of On-Line Electric Vehicle (OLEV)". Springer Berlin Heidelberg.
  8. Salmon, Andrew (9 March 2010). "S.Korea unveils 'recharging road' for eco-friendly buses". The Times. London. Retrieved 20 July 2010.
  9. "KAIST's Road-Embedded Recharger Named Among Best Inventions of 2010". The Chosun Ilbo. 15 November 2010. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  10. Rachelle Dragani (11 November 2010). "Road-Embedded Rechargers - The 50 Best Inventions of 2010 - TIME". Time Magazine. Retrieved 15 November 2010.
  11. Kwak Yeon-soo (24 March 2019). "ICT minister nominee accused of wasting research money". The Korea Times.
  12. "ABB demonstrates technology to power flash charging electric bus in 15 seconds". Retrieved 27 October 2016.

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