Research at Missouri University of Science and Technology could lead to electric cars that can charge in minutes or cost reductions for light-rail transportation in cities where mass transit is vital.

The key is using high voltage – 12,470 volts, or 113 times that of a typical household outlet.

“Higher voltage uses lower amps, which reduces the amount of power lost,” says Dr. Mehdi Ferdowsi, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T and the project lead. “Less loss means lower cost.”

The high-voltage research is part of a multi-campus research initiative of the University of Missouri System. Last fall, the UM System announced funding for 19 projects across the system’s four universities, including four at Missouri S&T.

The UM System effort has sparked plans for a new research laboratory at Missouri S&T. Ferdowsi’s project, titled “Energy Reliability and Resilience of Electrified Transportation Infrastructure,” is affiliated with the planned Electrified Transportation Distribution System Laboratory. The UM System funded the work with $1.5 million in strategic initiative funding.

Ferdowsi believes Missouri S&T is the natural choice to lead the project.

“We have a historically strong, nationally recognized power program,” Ferdowsi says. “Missouri S&T has successfully pulled in multi-million dollar projects in the past.”

The lab would be a distinctive facility in the central U.S., and Ferdowsi says other universities, government and private interests could use it for high-voltage experiments. For example, researchers could use the lab to test developments in transportation such as shipping, electric vehicle charging stations or light rail. Other experiments might involve renewable energy, such as wind energy collection and transmission.

Working with Ferdowsi on the research project are Missouri S&T faculty members Dr. Jonathan Kimball, professor of electrical and computer engineering; Dr. Robert Landers, Curators’ Distinguished Professor of mechanical engineering; and Dr. Ruwen Qin, associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering. Joining the S&T researchers are Dr. Dan Lin, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and Dr. Jianli Pan, assistant professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.