- A new pilot project in Italy proves that it is possible to charge electric vehicles on the road.
- Coils under the asphalt transfer energy to on-board receivers.
- In Detroit, a one-mile stretch of road will use a similar magnetic induction system to charge vehicles.
On a roadtrip in the near future, you can forget about any concerns about your electric vehicle’s range or finding a high-speed charging station along the way. In other words, if electrified roads become the norm, as a new pilot project in Milan, Italy demonstrates, it is entirely possible.
This inductive charging technology powers an electric vehicle under the roadway while the vehicle is still in motion. But extending this technology from a one-mile test track to a real highway won’t be a simple or inexpensive step. No one has yet put together a realistic roadmap to execute this dream project at scale.
That doesn’t mean companies aren’t trying to make electrified roads a reality. On June 10, Stellantis – the Amsterdam-based parent company of Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, among other automotive brands – announced the success of its “Arena of the Future” project just off the A35 motorway near from Milan, Italy. The company designed a 0.65 mile loop track integrated with inductive technology, then successfully powered its Fiat 500, as well as buses and other vehicles, while driving on the track.
In this design, a groove in the pavement is cut to install inductive charging coils, powered by electrical power. The reels are covered with asphalt, just like a typical road, so the cars can run on a smooth driving surface. A receiver located under the vehicle picks up this electromagnetic power and sends it directly to the motor, reducing (or even eliminating) the charge dependency of an electric vehicle’s stored battery.
Direct current powers the Arena of the Future, which reduces power losses in the power distribution, and allows the use of thinner cables than an alternating current.
Stellantis Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer technology has proven to allow a battery-powered electric vehicle to travel at typical highway speeds without consuming the energy stored in its battery.
“Our long-term strategic plan, Dare Forward 2030, is based on the premise of bringing state-of-the-art mobility freedom to all and this project is the essence of our direction as a company”, Anne-Lise Richard , head of Stellantis’ global e-mobility business unit, said in a press release. “We have proven that inductive charging technology can power our electrified future.”
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Italy is not alone in testing this type of wireless charging system. Work is already underway to sort out a one-mile test road in Detroit, Michigan, under the direction of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Michigan’s hope is to create an electrified road system that charges buses, shuttles and electric vehicles while driving. Germany, Sweden and Israel have similar programs underway.
University research also underpins the drive to innovate wireless charging for electric vehicles. A Cornell University team is going beyond the use of magnetic induction to highlight the possibility of high-frequency inverter technology. Their active variable reactance rectifier places magnetic plates under the vehicle which are connected to a power line. They carry high frequency current through a circuit on the vehicle, charging the battery.
But even if such wireless technologies prove possible in North America and Europe, the reality of a revised road system may not be so simple.
While the Indiana Department of Transportation has announced plans to create its own test bed for this type of technology on a quarter-mile stretch of freeway, the project is years away from being incorporated. in existing roads. Chris Mi, an electric vehicle charging expert at San Diego State University in California, says Grist the concept is not feasible or economically viable on a large scale.
There are several issues. Mainly, you have the unknown costs of converting the existing pavement by installing the induction system in the asphalt. Additionally, each car must be fitted with a receiver to accept the technology. Still, the transportation department has partnered with Purdue University, German technology provider Magment, and the National Science Foundation’s ASPIRE (Advancing Sustainability through Power Infrastructure for Road Electrification) initiative to continue testing and research. on the pavements.
With any new technology, unknown variables are abundant. In this case, you have to consider the cost of installation and the durability of a system a few centimeters below the weather-beaten asphalt. Then there is the concern over the funding of this project among other potential sustainable infrastructure projects.
Proponents of the technology say not only can entire road systems be outfitted with on-the-go charging, but the technology could work for parking lots, intersections, and virtually any location where readily available power can provide on-the-go charging. the road. . Part of the funding could come from tolls for vehicles powered by the system.
The future of wireless electric vehicle charging is still a question mark, but engineers, infrastructure specialists and policymakers continue to explore the possibilities of electrification.
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