World’s smallest EV powers itself without a battery: ‘The possibilities for improvements are enormous’

The idea of an electric vehicle that can generate its own power without needing a battery might seem impossible, or at least highly implausible. But one research team claims to have invented just such a device.

The MilliMobile, created by researchers at the University of Washington, is only 0.4 square inches — smaller than a penny. Its tiny size makes it able to generate enough energy from harvesting solar and radio frequency (RF) power to move itself across a flat surface while carrying payloads of three times its own weight.

The idea behind the minuscule EV is not necessarily that it will be useful in its current iteration (although it did offer some potential uses) but rather to show that the technology to create a battery-free EV is possible, which could have interesting implications down the line.

“We present MilliMobile: a first of its kind battery-free autonomous robot capable of operating on harvested solar and RF power. We challenge the conventional assumption that motion and actuation are beyond the capabilities of battery-free devices and demonstrate completely untethered autonomous operation in realistic indoor and outdoor lighting as well as RF power delivery scenarios,” the researchers wrote.

They went on to offer some potential uses for the MilliMobile, writing, “When combined with sensors like cameras, our robots could be used to automate a wide variety of inspection tasks, especially in scenarios dangerous to humans.”

“It’s easy to dismiss the MilliMobile as being slightly silly, but doing so would be a mistake,” CleanTechnica wrote. “Think of this as similar to the first solar panels. The possibilities for improvements are enormous and the use cases nearly infinite.”

EV batteries are expensive to produce, and the mining process used to obtain the rare metals used in them is environmentally harmful. So, the idea of moving beyond a need for batteries is certainly an intriguing one.

“Perhaps someday [we] will have AWD slot car sized EV’s that are wireless, batteryless, fast and fun without the need for slots!” wrote one optimistic commenter. “That would be cool.”

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