Michigan is planning to build the first public road in the United States where electric vehicles can charge wirelessly while driving. However, the competition is on, since Indiana has already begun the first phases of such a project.
The ‘Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot’, announced by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, aims to embed inductive charging technology into a stretch of road that enables electric vehicles with appropriate equipment to charge while driving.
The Michigan pilot project is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. So far, it appears the stretch of highway planned is currently a concept for which the state is looking for partners to help develop, fund, evaluate and deploy the technology.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has said that the pilot project for inductive charging built into the road will cover a one-mile stretch of road in either Wayne, Oakland, or Macomb county. A Request for Proposal will be issued by the Michigan Department of Transportation on 28 September to design, fund, and implement the test road. The various announcements made by the Michigan governor’s office did not reveal a time frame for the pilot project.
If Michigan wants to be the first place in the USA to get a strech of road operating with inductive charging for moving electric vehicles, they are going to need to move fast: a pilot project is already underway in Indiana.
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) announced earlier this summer that it would be working with Purdue and with German firm Magment to test in-road wireless charging. The research project in Indiana will be built on a quarter-mile stretch of private road where coils will be embedded in the road to convey electricity to vehicles outfitted with coils of their own. The project start was given as “late summer” of this year, so it should already be underway.
This will begin with phases 1 and 2 of the project involving pavement testing, analysis, and optimisation research, and is to be conducted by the Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.
For phase 3, of the Indiana project, INDOT will construct a quarter-mile-long testbed where engineers will test the road’s capacity to charge heavy trucks operation at high power (200 kilowatts and above). Upon successful completion of testing of all three phases, INDOT will use the new technology to electrify a segment of an interstate highway within Indiana, the location of which has yet to be determined.
While inductive charging for vehicles is already in commercial operation with several bus and taxi projects in different countries, inductive charging while driving, ie embedded in a road for moving vehicles, is indeed a very much emerging technology, but already making headway internationally.
An inductive charging project involving coils embedded in a road has been successfully conducted in Israel where inductive charging technology specialists Electreon prepared two sections of road with its technology. One of these involved a 20-metre stretch in the Israeli settlement of Beit Yanai on the Mediterranean Sea, where tests with a Renault Zoe were completed in 2019.
In May this year, Electreon announced that it would be providing its technology to charge two Stellantis vehicles and an Iveco bus while driving in Brescia, Italy, as part of the Arena of the Future project. The project in Italy aims to demonstrate the inductive charging of a range of electric vehicles on motorways and toll roads. In addition to ElectReon, Stellantis and Iveco, other participants in the ‘Arena del Futuro’ include ABB, the chemical group Mapei, the storage provider FIAMM Energy Technology and three Italian universities.
The race to be the first to get inductive charging up and operating on a public road is on. Other projects are already underway, notably also with Electreon in Sweden. A project is also including a major stretch planned in China for 2022.
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