Electric vehicle sales are expected to grow hugely over the next few years, so European countries are now racing to install enough infrastructure to keep them charged.
Sweden is planning to build a first of its kind, permanent electrified highway by 2025 that would enable EVs to charge while on the go.
Different electrified road systems have been tested. Among them, one Swedish company thinks its technology is the answer.
At a demonstration site in the town of Lund in southern Sweden is EVolution Road.
It’s a regular city asphalt road — with a difference. Embedded at the center of one lane is an electrified rail that can charge vehicles as they drive along it.
Dan Zethraeus, the founder of Elonroad, the firm behind the technology, said there are substantial benefits.
“You can drive much longer with smaller batteries, and you don’t have to stop and charge. This is especially important when you have long-haul trucks or buses with enormous batteries.”
The technology is called conductive charging and is very similar to how a miniature slot car works. Underneath the vehicle is a metal strip, and as this slides along the rail, electricity flows to the vehicle.
To keep it centered, an onboard camera follows green LED lights on the rail.
“Under here you have an antenna receiver. So a vehicle comes, sends a signal,” Zethraeus explained. “This will switch on to 650 volts when the vehicle is over it. And then when it has passed, it will immediately switch off.”
He said this makes it safe for the public and secure from hackers. It also identifies the vehicle so the owner can be billed for the energy they use.
Inside the firm’s factory, engineers are building new track ready for high-speed testing. The CEO, Karin Ebbinghaus, believes electrified roads make more sense than building large networks of chargers.
“I think going forward, it won’t be either plugs or electrical roads, it will actually be all of them. Because we will need so much charging infrastructure to have a 100% fully electric society.”
Not all experts are convinced, however, that the technology will take off. Matthias Schmidt, an analyst from Schmidt Automotive Research, is one of them.
“The costs are simply going to be far too high in comparison to the fast-charging network,” he said.
New trials for electrified roads are also taking place in Norway and France. So in the future, we might be charging up our electric cars without plugging in.
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