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.
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.
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