What if the highway could charge your electric vehicle?
People avoid buying electric vehicles out of fear. Many fear that the charging infrastructure is not adequate, that they will find themselves stuck between charging stations – a concern known as range anxiety. But now a pilot program in Michigan could ease that tension.
Next spring, the nation’s first mile of public road that can charge electric vehicles as they drive on it will come online in Detroit.
A joint venture between the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Israeli mobility startup Electreon, the road is the centerpiece of a $5.7 million program study how road pricing in dense urban environments affects daily life.
The technology is the same as that used to wirelessly charge a smartphone, on a much larger scale. A box connects magnetic coils embedded in the asphalt to the power grid, and these coils then emit a magnetic field which is picked up by a receiver mounted on the chassis of an electric vehicle. The road isn’t meant to bring an empty EV back: it charges at 20 kilowatts, roughly the same rate an EV uses at highway speeds. The receiver can be installed on the assembly line or as an aftermarket accessory, and will work both in motion and when the vehicle is parked.
Passenger cars would potentially need one receiver, while buses and tractor-trailers could require six or more. Drivers will only pay if they charge while driving on the road, which will also be open to non-electric vehicles.
Proponents say if every state adopted the technology, it could unlock seamless coast-to-coast travel in an electric vehicle and cars that would run indefinitely without needing to stop to recharge.
âIt will be an interesting technology if they can get it in place,â Tesla Model 3 owner Ryan Talbot told The Daily Beast. “It’s a huge increase in hardware and infrastructure.”
He said he got between 260 and 280 miles per charge and drove between Metro Detroit and Grand Rapids, a distance of 130 miles, fairly regularly. Range anxiety isn’t great, as there’s a Tesla Supercharger station on the way back from Michigan’s west coast, and it takes him about 20 minutes to charge enough to get home, where it plugs into a level 2 charger.
Talbot said if he was renting an apartment, the lack of a home charger would have made him think twice about ditching a traditional vehicle for an electric vehicle. But its access to Supercharger stations – which are reserved for Teslas – means the Electreon route isn’t a huge need, and it would actually use more battery to get there than it would recover.
“I would probably check the kicks,” he said. “I don’t know if I would do my best to have a neutral net state of charge at the end.”
Electreon’s pilot project in Detroit builds on its projects in Israel and Sweden. In the first, a section of 2 kilometers of paying buses; the other tested tractor-trailers and the impact of winter on a 1.6 kilometer inductive road. The startup chose Michigan for a US trial because the state’s notorious winters and brackish, pockmarked roads allow engineers to test its technology in extreme conditions. And Michigan is known for those kinds of firsts: it’s home to the nation’s first-ever mile of concrete highway and the nation’s first interstate highway system.
Neighboring Indiana is conducting its own experiments with magnetized concrete at a research center, but Michigan is exceeding that effort by deploying directly on a public road.
“Michigan definitely led the first automotive revolution 100 years ago,” Electreon Vice President Asaf Maman told The Daily Beast. “He will lead the mobility revolution.”
There are, however, unresolved questions.
Receivers will require semiconductors, and some have predicted that the global chip shortage extend until 2026. “At this time, we don’t anticipate any hardware shortages,” said Michelle Mueller, senior project manager for connected and automated vehicles at MDOT. “If it becomes a challenge, we will find a strategy.”
Electreon says the chip shortage is “a challenge we will face and overcome.” He is looking for local suppliers for chips and copper wiring, but acknowledges this could be an expensive proposition, much like electric vehicles themselves.
Having an EV in the driveway is a luxury for many. Last December, the average price was $56,000, or $10,000 more than an average internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. Consider the Motor City highest in the country auto insurance premiums (Michigan leads in US rates) and the gap between direct beneficiaries and everyone else widens further.
The average income in Wayne County in Detroit is under $30,000 for individuals and under $50,000 for households. In 2019electric vehicles held a 0.31% market share in Michigan based on total sales, and accounted for 2.5% global car sales in the same year. Those numbers are trending up, but ICE vehicles vastly outnumber electric vehicles and likely will for decades.
As a result, toll roads will primarily benefit the wealthy while the rest of Detroit’s drivers are forced to navigate crater-shaped potholes. When the Electreon magnets are buried three inches in the road, will those streets get priority during pothole season?
âWe definitely need to be in sync with the road owner and operator for immediate maintenance,â Maman said. However, he pointed out that because the magnets are wired in parallel (like Christmas lights), damage to one sensor will nominally reduce efficiency but not bring the entire array out of service or require repairs. emergency. He said questions like this are why Electreon doesn’t just build the infrastructure, figure out how to monetize it, and walk out of town. ” We stay [in Michigan] for operation and maintenance, preparing for these types of scenarios. Â»
Electreon and MDOT say there are benefits even for those who don’t own a vehicle:. cleaner air, less noise and increased efficiency for commercial deliveries.
MDOT also sees it as a way to change the less than ideal perception of public transit in Michigan. The technology could be a boon for fixed-route bus routes and be used to increase or improve last-mile travel options â the gap between parking a personal vehicle and arriving at your destination. The next step is to evangelize him to the Detroiters.
âThere will be a lot of community outreach and education as we go through this,â Mueller said.
Whether this will lead to people taking an electric bus to the airport instead of carpooling is still anyone’s guess.