Apple's solution for energy-efficient electric cars may come from cycling


Apple’s self-driving system atop a Lexus RX - Image via MacCallister Higgins

Apple’s self-driving system atop a Lexus RX - Image via MacCallister Higgins

Apple produces some intriguing patents. Their latest is for a system they call "Peloton" that could platoon self-driving electric cars for better long-range efficiency and energy sharing.

The technology company's filing Tuesday with United States Patent and Trademark Office explains a wild way to keep electric cars charged while part of the platoon. Foremost, it's probably worth explaining what a "peloton" is for the unfamiliar. Aside from being a fancy piece of workout equipment, a peloton is a pack of cyclists that jockey among each other to reduce drag and conserve energy for teammates riding behind in a slipstream.

The concept is identical in Apple's patent: a group of self-driving cars would feature the Peloton system and arrange them accordingly to reduce drag and maximize efficiencies. The technology would take numerous factors into account when organizing the platoon of self-driving cars, too. For example, cars with a lower battery charge or fuel would be shuffled to the back, while cars with more fuel head to the front. Again, it comes back to making more cars more efficient. It's not an entirely new concept and other companies have explored the idea of commercial vehicles platooning to minimize drag.

While the drag benefits would help extend an electric car's range, Apple also described a technology to share energy with the pack of cars. To save time on long trips and reduce charging time, a retractable apparatus would transfer power from an electric car with more range to one that's in need of more juice. We'd assume the driver (or rider) would have to be OK with sharing energy, though.

As we often say, companies patent many technologies and systems that never see the light of day. But, they do give us some neat insight into what some of the world's brightest engineers and various companies have cooked up.

 
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