Visual Representation for wireless charging of an electric vehicle | Credits: Electreon
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On the road to wireless: Detroit’s 14th Street revolutionizes EV charging

United States: The 14th Street in Detroit is the first public place in the United States to drive an electric vehicle and not drain it but instead charge it – yes, it’s a wonderful invention! The section of road through the Corktown area in Detroit that is approximately a quarter mile (400m) long serves as a pilot to determine how EVs can be charged with an unknown wireless technology.

A technology similar to the one used in wireless charging for mobile phones is used in this method. Subsurface electromagnetic coils were installed and linked to the city’s electrical infrastructure. These produce an electromagnetic field just above the road, which is used in “inductive charging” to send energy to a receiver connected to a car battery. This method is commonly known as wireless charging.

Tackling Barriers

The hope is that roads like these may help to combat one of the major barriers that keep people from switching to electric vehicles – range anxiety. With charging infrastructure still not at the levels needed to support a large number of electric vehicles, and EVs do take a sufficient amount of time to charge a vehicle while being on long journeys, most car/motorcycle enthusiast is pretty hesitant about swapping their fossil fuel-powered cars.

Representation for a charging electric vehicle

But driving along a road where the car gains some additional charge as it travels could help to extend the range of electric vehicles or even do away with the need for plug-in charging altogether.

ELECTREON vice president Stefan Tongur stated, “We once used charging cables to charge our mobile phones, but we can do it without using cable; soon, the same may also be true of the electric charges.”

“The evolution of charging will be going from cord to wireless,” he told the BBC, “When we caught up with him at the Consumer Electronics Show, we will have roads that can charge vehicles while they drive – and where they park.”

A Global Perspective on Wireless Charging

In East and Middle Europe as well as Asia and America, ELECTREON is helping pilot wireless charging technology in selected areas. For example, it was in November already when Michigan installed the magnetic inductive coils on the roads in Detroit. They drive along the strip with receivers attached in such a way that their base has a charge connected to it. Such vehicles can dynamically charge because of this.

Strategic Deployment and Future Plans

 Partly funded by US$ 1.9 million from the Michigan Department of Transit, with ELECTREON contributing the balance, the ambition is to stretch out within a number of years the “smart road” for a mile that will provide an opportunity for testing the technology on it under real city conditions. Michigan Governor’s efforts towards carbon neutrality by 2050 and the revitalization of the state’s transport infrastructure. 

Visual Representation for wireless charging | Credits: Electreon

It also entails the employment of electric vehicles, which by 2030 will have a reliable charging system, in addition to wireless roads for charging, and ultimately putting into place the latest 100,000 chargers to support two million electric vehicles, according to Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer Justine Johnson.

Being the “Motor City” with a rich automotive history, she thinks it only makes sense that Detroit would be at the forefront of automotive innovation for the future of mobility and automobiles.

While this technology is worth an estimated US$1.96 million per mile and guarantees to turn into a profit, some experts wonder whether smart roads can scale up beyond pilot projects. If state-of-the-art smart roads were put in place throughout the whole city or along highways spanning long distances within the country, today’s price tag would be astronomical. 

Going by Togheur’s anticipation, since the technology will mature, it is estimated that installing wireless charging costs $1.2 million per mile and US$1000 per receiver within a short time.

“Wireless charging looks good on paper. But the logistics, the cost involved, make it quite impractical,” says Ashley Nunes, a researcher in behavioral economics at Harvard Law School.

But Tongur says the technology doesn’t need to be under every road. “It’s not meant to deploy everywhere,” he says. “It’s to be very strategic where it makes the most sense, where the good business models are.”

Earlier, the company will concentrate on transit corridors that are regularly used by commercial trucks operating on set timetables. 

This applies to trucks and buses as well, as there are financial advantages to using them continuously as opposed to stopping to pay for them.

Nunes concurs that wireless charging highways might be a workable option for the medium- and heavy-duty trucking sector, which he claims is responsible for a disproportionate amount of carbon emissions per mile. “If the vehicle is traveling a fixed route, it doesn’t deviate that much from retrofitting these sections of roadway with wireless charging, which may well make sense,” according to him.

Ans it is not the intention to copy a recharger fast connected via outlet. Says Tongur, dynamic charging by means of ELECTREON allows charging at the rate of 35KW per receiver. Thus, if three receivers are present in buses or trucks, the maximum that it is can be 100KW. For several miles, he says that’s a huge increase in the range itself, and it would be most beneficial to those who are driving along stretches of road where there is virtually nothing around.

According to the analysis carried out by the Swedish government, an electric road of 250km wide on busy routes would lower carbon dioxide from lorries by more than 200,000 tonnes.

The Business Model and Cost Reduction Strategies

In order to reduce the costs, ELECTREON is also providing a subscription model, as per Tongur, in which users can pay a monthly charge of between $800 (£630) and $1000 (£790) for the ongoing use of commercial, autonomous, and public transportation vehicles. 

The business is using what it calls its charging-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform in a $9.4 million (£7.4 million) joint venture with the 200-bus fleet of Tel Aviv public transportation operator, Dan Bus Company. According to ELECTREON, a pay-as-you-go strategy would be better suited for less frequent drivers who want to refuel their cars while traveling.

In Europe, as early as 2035, France will be planning to lay down about 8,850km of electrified roads using overhead cables or rails and inductive charging, while studies conducted by the Germans recommend the laying down of their Autobahn with over 4,000km covered through either normal cargo roadway or induction charging. Sweden estimates that it can cost up to SEK 30-40bn (2.3-3bn USD/$2.9 – 3.8 bn) for electric roads of roughly 1,200 miles in length (approx. 2,000km).

A project to electrify a section of the German Autobahn is among the several wireless charging projects that ELECTRON is working on around Europe. The business is constructing a wireless charging roadway in the US in collaboration with Utah State University for Aspire, a research center supported by the National Science Foundation. According to Tongur, it also attempted to electrify the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

According to him, this is achievable in city malls; the response would be to help achieve climate deadlines; free coils can easily be added to existing road maintenance schedules and become chargeable assets. Car makers can add receivers to vehicles and, that way, reduce the size adjustment of batteries and lower the EV utility bill if this makes adoption bend sooner.

Collaborations and Government Initiatives

The contest for the passenger sprouts. The most practiced collaborations from Toyota include a deal with Electreon to investigate options for wireless charging opportunities; carmakers, namely BMW and Ford, are busy aligning Witricity; Stellantis has partnered with Hevo Power. It is widely considered that Tesla has its own solution following its purchase acquisition, then the subsequent sale of Wiferion wireless charging company the previous year.

Nevertheless, change is on the way. The United States federal government has allocated billions of dollars towards the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (Nevi) and Charging and Fueling Infrastructure (CFI) programs, which aim to finance the construction of high-speed charging infrastructure for the country’s highways and public spaces such as workplaces, residences, and retail stores. 

By 2030, the Biden Administration hopes to have 500,000 chargers available to the public, with wireless charging highways potentially contributing to this total.

“As we think about transitioning from the internal combustion engine to zero emissions vehicles, we have to think about systems that allow for people to transition,” says Johnson. “It is less about range anxiety and more about charging reliability – that will help consumers make informed decisions.”

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