Wireless charging highway: Electric vehicles may never run out of charge in the future

Image credit

Wireless charging highway: Electric vehicles may never run out of charge in the future

Wireless charging highway: Electric vehicles may never run out of charge in the future

Subheading text
Wireless charging could be the next revolutionary concept in electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure, in this case, delivered through electrified highways.
    • Author:
    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • April 22, 2022

    The transportation industry has constantly evolved since the invention of the first automobile. As electric vehicles (EV) become increasingly popular with consumers, several solutions have been proposed and plans implemented to make battery charging technology and infrastructure widely available. Creating a wireless charging highway is one way that EVs can be charged as they drive, which could lead to significant changes within the automobile industry if this tech is adopted widely.  

    Wireless charging highway context

    The world could be moving closer to building roads capable of continuously charging EVs and hybrid cars. In recent years, particularly in the latter half of the 2010s, the demand for EVs has grown significantly in both the personal and commercial markets. As more EVs are driven on the world’s roads, the need for reliable and convenient charging infrastructure will continue to grow. Companies capable of innovating can also accrue a significant commercial advantage over their rivals. 

    Disruptive impact

    As part of an initiative to provide EVs with continuous charging infrastructure in the United States, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), in partnership with Purdue University and a German startup, Magment GmbH, announced in mid-2021 plans to build wireless charging highways. The highways would use innovative magnetizable concrete to charge electric vehicles wirelessly. 

    INDOT plans to execute the project in three phases. In the first and second phases, the project will aim to test, analyze, and optimize the specialized paving that is critical in the highway being able to charge vehicles driving over it. Purdue’s Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) will host these first two phases at its West Lafayette campus. The third phase will feature the construction of a quarter-mile-long testbed that has a charging capacity of 200 kilowatts and higher to support the operation of electric heavy trucks.

    The magnetizable concrete will be produced by combining recycled magnetic particles and cement. Based on Magment’s estimations, the wireless transmission efficiency of magnetizable concrete is approximately 95 percent, while the installation costs for building these specialized roads are similar to traditional road construction. In addition to supporting the growth of the EV industry, more EVs being purchased by former drivers of internal combustion vehicles could lead to carbon emissions being reduced in urban areas. 

    Other forms of wireless charging highways are being tested worldwide. In 2018, Sweden developed an electric rail that could transfer power through a moveable arm to vehicles in motion. ElectReon, an Israeli wireless electricity company, developed an inductive charging system that has been used to charge an electric truck successfully. These technologies may play an essential role in spurring auto manufacturers to more rapidly embrace electric vehicles, with travel distance and battery longevity representing the most pressing technology challenges facing the industry. For example, among the largest auto manufacturers in Germany, Volkswagen leads a consortium to integrate ElectReon’s charging technology into newly designed electric vehicles. 

    Implications of charging EVs on wireless charging highways

    The wider implications of wirelessly charging EVs on highways may include:

    • Increasing the general public’s confidence in adopting EVs as they can develop greater trust in their EVs to transport them over long distances. 
    • Reducing EV manufacturing costs as automakers can produce vehicles with smaller batteries since drivers will have their vehicles continuously charged during their commutes.
    • Improving supply chains as cargo trucks and various other commercial vehicles will gain the ability to travel longer without the need to stop for refueling/recharging. This benefit will be especially pronounced with trucks operated by autonomous systems.
    • Infrastructure corporations purchasing new or existing road toll highways to convert them into high-tech charging routes that will charge drivers both for using a given highway and for charging their EVs while driving through. 
    • Gas/Charging stations being replaced entirely, in some regions, by the road toll charging highways noted in the previous point.

    Questions to comment on

    • Do you think wireless charging roads can eliminate the need for EV charging stations?
    • What could be the negative impacts of introducing magnetic materials in highways, particularly when non-vehicle-related metals are near the highway?
    • Do you believe that the economics around this technology will allow for it to be widely adopted in future infrastructure development?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: