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Some states south of the border are exploring the possibility of charging electric vehicles wirelessly as they drive across roads.
Pew Charitable Trusts, of which the Pew Research Center is a subsidiary, recently highlighted an initiative in Michigan. The state’s Department of Transportation is planning to embed technology in the pavement of two stretches of road that can charge EVs as they drive across.
The agency said the wireless system will be a test of what is inductive charging on public roadways in the U.S.
“We’re the auto capital. We continue to push technology advancements,” Michele Mueller, a senior project manager at the agency, told Pew.
Officials from Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Utah have noted plans to test inductive charging on public roads in the next few years.
“This is a great solution to a problem we have today of how to get to zero emissions,” Tallis Blalack, managing director of the ASPIRE engineering research center headquartered at Utah State University, which focuses on electric vehicle infrastructure, told Pew. “If we do this correctly, we can decrease the costs of transportation for everyone.”
This type of technology exists in other settings, notably wireless smartphone charging. According to Pew, coils embedded in the pavement would transfer magnetic energy to a receiver mounted under an EV to wirelessly charge its battery.
The end goal would see these wireless systems reduce the time needed to charge EVs — and require drivers to stop to charge less often. It would reduce so-called range anxiety and require less stress on electric grids by avoiding the need for vehicle and fleet owners to plug their cars into a charger at around the same time when they get home from work or at the end of a shift.
For freight vehicles, they could use smaller, less expensive batteries since they would be regularly charging while on charging-equipped roads. It can cost US$150,000 to put EV batteries into each long-haul electric semi, according to Blalack. Smaller batteries, meanwhile, would cost only about US$15,000.
“We can reduce the cost of transportation for everybody if we have the infrastructure in place,” he added.
Pew highlighted proponents of the technology envision charging sections along highways across the country.
Through an app on their phone or the vehicle’s control system, drivers would accept a charge from the technology, Pew explained. Same as they would through a public EV station, they would pay for the amount of electricity used.
Having roads able to charge vehicles would cost about $30 billion a year by 2035, primarily on interstate highways, according to Blalack.
“It seems like a lot of money, but you’re talking trillions of dollars to buy batteries for long-range vehicles,” he told Pew. “It’s significantly cheaper for us to invest money in infrastructure than build out all these vehicles with long-range batteries.”