Israel’s Electreon Wireless Ltd. plans to install electric charging coils under a 1.2-mile stretch of road in Tel Aviv in mid-August. It’s the latest attempt to enable electric vehicles to charge while driving. But is the approach feasible and necessary?
Electreon is also moving ahead in Sweden, where the pandemic slowed down another electrified road project. The company is now getting back on track to deploy coils across 2.5 miles of road on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland in Sweden. The electrified road will support an airport shuttle supplied by the Dan bus company and an electric truck. The company is in the final stages of engineering.
As any EV driver knows, it takes about 10 seconds to plug in your electric car. The next day, a battery capable of between 200 and 300 miles driving is ready to go. The technology for ultra-fast highway charging is also progressing – with highway charging that occurs in the time it takes to stretch your legs.
Nonetheless, Electreon CEO Oren Ezer envisions a big need to replenish an EV battery without stopping, especially for future autonomous vehicles. Ezer told Bloomberg:
When you imagine a world where you step outside and order a robotaxi from Uber or whoever you think, those companies will wait five hours to charge their cars?
The company places copper coils under the pavement that transmits energy from the grid wirelessly to a receiver attached under the EVs as they drive by. The New York Times explained last year:
An asphalt scraper digs a shallow trench in the road, while a second vehicle installs the charging strips and covers them with fresh asphalt. Power is delivered to the street from the electricity grid by power inverters installed on the sides of the road.
Electreon executives say nearly two-thirds of a mile of road can be outfitted during a single-night construction shift.
A self-charging roadway would allow EV makers to use smaller, lighter batteries. They would get replenished as you drive. Smaller batteries that still provide adequate range would reduce the purchase price of battery-powered vehicles.
Electreon wants to start with urban bus and shuttle routes first. After installing that first mile of electrified road in Tel Aviv, the company wants to expand deployment to a long route around the city. The company’s big vision is for all-electric city transport across the entire globe.
It’s not a new concept. Germans industrial giant Siemens developed competing electric road technologies, also trying it out in Sweden as well as South Korea. Like other non-traditional EV refueling strategies, such as battery swapping or peer-to-peer charging, it remains highly speculative.
Electreon’s project in Sweden is expected to cost $12 million. It will be mostly financed by the Swedish government. The test could lead Sweden to build more than a thousand miles of electrified high-speed highways.
Experimentation can lead to breakthroughs. So you never know.
But the prospects for pie-in-the-sky futuristic charging solutions can overshadow the near-term realities. Nearly all charging takes place at home or work. Charging plazas, urban destination quick chargers, and on-street solutions are beginning to address the needs of people living in multi-family dwellings.
At the same time, ultra-fast charging is getting much faster. And China is investing in widespread battery-swap stations.
We’ll keep our eyes on the project to electrify roads. But let’s not get distracted when current EV charging technology is already serving our needs.