Wireless EV Charging Roads

We’ve been talking about electric vehicles quite a bit throughout the course of the semester, but have we really discussed the innovations outside of the cars themselves. Each state in the United States has plans to become carbon neutral within the next 30 years or so, and Michigan is taking a huge step while pioneering a construction of the first wireless electric vehicle charging road—a one-mile stretch in the Metro Detroit area.

Sweden has a plan to have a fossil fuel transportation system by 2030. The government invested heavily in building and now completing part of a road near Stockholm, that charges electric vehicles as they drive on it. The project—called eRoadArlanda—uses technology like overhead cables that charge electric buses and trolleys, but instead build it in the road. This seems extremely complicated and perhaps useless to some, or useless to most for now, but this technology can be invaluable to electric vehicle owners in the future. When a retrofitted electric vehicle senses it’s on an electric road, an arm attached to the bottom of the vehicle lowers onto the track and charges the battery. eRoadArlanda says the track works in both rain or snow, which is especially important considering the temperature in Sweden for majority of the year. They plan on paying off the road by billing drivers for the amount of electricity used. In this case where there is only about a mile stretch of the charging road, costs are likely to be low. The system is designed to charge heavy truck loads, but is capable of charging cars and buses as well.

eRoad Arlanda

Michigan has been particularly diligent in creating the roadmap for their metropolitan project. Michigan was the home to the first mile of paved road and continues to steer construction in a positive direction. The system works identically to that of Sweden. As a car drives over it, the vehicle’s battery is charged by pads or coils built under the surface of the street using magnetic induction. It doesn’t give the car a full charge, but it helps add some additional mileage to a vehicle before its next complete powering up.

As I mentioned, the state of Michigan is taking its sweet little time with this project. The Michigan Department of Transportation began accepting proposals for the project on September 28th of this year, and until one of the proposals are accepted, it is unknown exactly where the road will be, what it’s going to look like, how much it will cost, or how soon the project could be operational. Tax-payers question the use of funds in Michigan where they’re infamous for poor transit and crumbling infrastructure. Others question how the project will even work in a place with harsh weather extremes in the Midwest.

Chris Mi, chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at San Diego State University who is an expert on electric vehicle charging, says this project is “just not feasible or economically viable.” At most, the one-mile stretch demonstration is very doable, but anything on a larger scale than that is going to involve several practical and economic barriers.

Michigan to test EV-charging roadway -- GCN

The other problem with the charged road is making new cars compatible with wireless charging road tracks. This single addition tacks on thousands of dollars to the cost of a vehicle. Mi says, building “a receiver that is capable to receiving that kind of power” could create a price tag so high that nobody would buy the car. Current electric vehicles wouldn’t be able to utilize the new road without having to purchase an after-market receiver.

Some fun facts to know about the project itself. Mi estimates that a driver would gain just seven to 10 miles of charge from driving 60 miles per hour on the one-mile road, assuming a charge rate of 120 kilowatts per hour. Michigan’s potholes in the winter could cause severe damage to the infrastructure in a couple of years. According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, $1.9 million has been allocated for the new wireless charging road. In comparison, Sweden’s project cost $2.4 million. So I ask, is this useful or useless?

Here is an example of how this works in Norway. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVEuOtRLNzc

And here’s how it’s constructed along with some financing information. https://futurism.com/ev-charging-roads-sweden

6 comments

  1. Nice post. So I guess the real solution is just to create better and better batteries, which seems to be the direction that Tesla is going.

  2. Heja Sverige!!! (got to give some props to my birth land of Sweden)

    Ignoring the costs (and thus perhaps the overall feasibility), I do love this concept. And I wonder if there could be some strategic areas that could have a longer prototype than 1 mile, like one of the many highways circling DC (or just 95 heading south from DC into Virginia.)

    I envision some sort of EV lane akin to an HOV lane (and I just watched the Norwegian video which shows that Parisian EV lane concept!) The appeal of the Oslo Taxi project is it seems both feasible and scalable to expand beyond taxi queues to even just regular parking spots.

  3. parkerrepko · ·

    In your research, did you discover ways to generate electricity from highways? I believe I saw a proposal for small vertical wind turbines on the median that would spin from the wind generated by cars traveling by quickly. While your blog points out the difficulties in charging cars on highways, what if we could generate electricity on highways, transfer to batteries for charging stations next to highways, then drivers could stop to charge.

  4. bengreen123 · ·

    This would be amazing but I can’t help but think that regulation and scalability issues would make it dead in the water (issues with the small charge it would provide). Really amazing idea so though and very well written.

  5. lexgetdigital · ·

    I agree with Chris Mi that this project is “just not feasible or economically viable.” Better batteries are just going to require more chemicals that we won’t be able to dispose of in the years to come. Ripping up concrete or asphalt and repaving it is going to be extremely costly and environmentally unfriendly. Repairing these charger trackers when potholes, etc. arise is going to be similarly costly and environmentally unfriendly. These seem like monorails at disney (charging tracks). I propose just building more commuter rails, like Boston is doing.

  6. kaylacyrs · ·

    This is really cool to hear about. A lot of MBA courses have talked about tech adoption and the requirements of other technologies that support the main technology. For example gas stations readily available for drivers of cars. My first reaction to your post was wow what a great idea but I appreciate our classmates comments about some issues that would arise with this technology that I did not initially think about. I think ignoring all potential issues that may arise, a charging road would definitely influence me in purchasing an electric car.

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