Crews have installed what’s billed as North America’s first wireless-charging public roadway for electric vehicles beneath a street just west of downtown Detroit.
Copper inductive charging coils allow vehicles equipped with receivers to charge up their batteries while driving, idling, or parking above the coils, The Associated Press reports.
The quarter-mile segment of 14th Street will be used to test and perfect the technology before making it available to the public within a few years, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
Demonstrations were held Wednesday at Michigan Central innovation district, a hub for advancing technologies and programs that address barriers to mobility. The district is also where Ford Motor Co. is restoring the old Michigan Central train station to develop self-driving vehicles.
In Canada, engineers are looking at wireless charging as a technology that “promises to revolutionize the way we power our cars,” the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR) wrote earlier this month, “offering a future where EV owners can simply park their cars over a charging pad and have their batteries replenished without the need for any physical connection.”
The basic concept “is not new, as it has been successfully implemented in various consumer electronics, such as smartphones and smartwatches,” CACOR adds. “However, the challenge of scaling up this technology for electric vehicles is significantly more complex. To achieve efficient wireless charging for EVs, engineers must overcome issues related to power transfer, charging speed, and safety.”
The technology in Michigan belongs to Electreon, an Israel-based developer of wireless charging solutions for electric vehicles, AP says. The company has contracts for similar roadways in Israel, Sweden, Italy, and Germany. The pilot initiative in Michigan was announced in 2021 by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
“Alongside Michigan’s automotive expertise, we’ll demonstrate how wireless charging unlocks widespread EV adoption, addressing limited range, grid limitations, and battery size and costs,” said Stefan Tongur, Electreon’s vice president of business development. “This project paves the way for a zero-emission mobility future, where EVs are the norm, not the exception.”
AP explains how the system works: When a vehicle with a receiver nears the charging segments, the coils beneath the road transfer electricity through a magnetic field, charging the vehicle’s battery. The coils only activate when a vehicle with a receiver passes over them.
Tongur told reporters the roadway is safe for pedestrians, drivers, and animals.
MDOT and Electreon made a five-year commitment to develop the electric road system. The DOT is expected to seek bids to rebuild part of busy Michigan Avenue, where inductive charging will also be installed.
As electric vehicles increase in popularity in the United States, the Biden administration has made its plan for half a million EV charging stations a signature piece of its infrastructure goals.
The wireless charging roadway helps puts Michigan and Detroit at the forefront of electric vehicle technology, officials said.
“In Michigan, we want to stay ahead of the curve. We want to lead the curve,” said MDOT Director Bradley C. Wieferich.
The main body of this story was published by The Associated Press and republished by The Canadian Press on November 29, 2023.