You’ve probably all now heard of charging your mobile phone wirelessly, but what about charging your electric vehicle (EV) wirelessly?… whilst simultaneously taking it for a spin! Famously known as ‘Motor City’ because of its historical links to the mass production of fossil fuel powered cars, Detroit, Michigan, is set to home the USA’s first wireless charging road . The question is whether EV roads have the potential to fix some of the key issues facing EVs today, with the main one being range anxiety for their owners. Is it possible for EV roads to solve this issue by sufficiently charging our cars as we drive? Will specific charging points no longer be a necessity? Will the need to stop and charge EVs be eliminated? This article explores the wireless charging road for EVs, and its potential for the future.
With EVs being in their relative infancy compared to their fossil fuel powered counterparts in the mass market, a lot is set to change over the next few decades, not only for the EVs themselves but for the infrastructure that supports them. There is no doubt that more charging points are needed to support the growth of EVs, and wireless charging through our roads could play a part in solving this issue.
The Detroit-based project is being developed by the Israeli technology company Electreon in collaboration with the US-based motor company Ford. The EV road will be built at Ford’s ‘mobility innovation district’ at Michigan Central Terminal. Whilst this will be the first EV road in the USA, Electreon has previously built EV roads in Italy, Israel and Sweden .
The road charges EVs whether they are moving or at a stand-still via inductive charging. This works by emitting a magnetic field from metal coils buried underneath the road which then go on to be received by special receivers attached to the lower part of the EVs. Fossil fuel powered cars would simply use the road as if it is any other road. It is unclear whether the EV roads are able to charge, sustain, or merely reduce the loss of electricity from the battery whilst a vehicle uses the road at this point. This may depend on the battery and vehicle type, as well as the length of time the vehicle spends on the road itself.
EV road technology appears to be very much in its infancy and therefore it is unlikely that we will see many of our existing roads being dug up and retrofitted with this technology in the immediate future. The common issues of range anxiety, availability of charging stations, as well as the cost of transitioning to EVs are likely to be the biggest barriers to people switching from their fossil fuel powered counterparts. EV roads may not be the technology that solves all of the above, however EV roads will likely supplement the charging network as battery technology improves and the number of charging points increases. In the near to mid-term future, it is likely that this technology will be best suited to public transport routes and urban areas, where vehicles are often at a stand-still and may continuously use the same route throughout the day. This, in turn, could reduce the need for specific charging spaces in already built-up and land short areas. For many drivers who make longer commutes, wireless charging roads will only really cover a small part of their route at this point in time.
Used in combination with long-range EVs and rapid charging, the EV road will likely act as a supplement to EV charging infrastructure in the near to mid-term future, rather than a technology that solves the key issue with EVs, that being range anxiety. It is very unlikely that government and highways agencies will have the incentive, let alone the money, to fully retrofit existing road networks that are currently perfectly suitable for all vehicles. That being said, if fitting electric roads is the push needed to finally fix all the pothole-ridden roads in the UK, then the sooner they are available, the better.
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 In a first, EV company builds 1-mile long wireless road in Detroit, by Loukia Papadopoulos of Interesting Engineering, Feb 05, 2022. Last accessed 27th February 2022.
Thumbnail image accreditation: Joey Kyber (September 2016) from Unsplash.com. Last accessed on 1st March 2022. Available at: https://unsplash.com/photos/45FJgZMXCK8