Electreon has integrated its technology at the ‘Arena of the future’ project in Brescia, Italy. Shown are an Iveco electric bus and a Fiat 500-e being charged while driving. (Electreon)

Wireless road charging for EVs to debut in 2023

A pilot program for public roadway charging of passenger and commercial electric vehicles is a first in the U.S.

Roadway-embedded wireless charging for electric vehicles is coming to a stretch of urban highway in Detroit, marking a pilot-program first on a U.S. public road. “Our electric vehicle receiver units are modular and compatible with passenger vehicles and with light-, medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles,” said Oren Ezer, CEO of Electreon, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Michigan is expected to operate the first electrified roadway in 2023.

Electreon’s patented wireless in-road EV charging technology already is in use with various European demonstration projects, including a 0.7-mile (1.05 km) intercity toll road in Italy and a 1-mi (1.65 km) public road in Sweden. Sweden’s policymakers aim to have 1,243 miles (2,000 km) of electrified roadway in operation by 2030. Detroit’s electrified roadway will be near Michigan Central, a mobility-innovation district under development by Ford Motor Co. 

“The wireless charging infrastructure will support a suite of use cases involving various vehicle types, including autonomous vehicles, and it will support partners, like Ford,” noted Jim Buczkowski, the company’s executive director of Research and Advance Engineering.

Cloud-based system monitoring
The $1.9 million-plus Michigan project involves one lane of public roadway for a minimum of one mile (1.6 km). As of mid-May, the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) was doing a feasibility study on electrifying a section of Michigan Avenue and/or 14th Street in Detroit’s Corktown district. After the existing road surface is removed, rubber-coated copper coil segments will be buried 3.15 inches (8 cm) under a new road surface. “Non-electric vehicles are able to use the roadway as usual without any disruption,” said Dr. Stefan Tongur, Electreon’s VP.

The roadway’s coil segments transmit power to an EV undercarriage-mounted receiver via magnetic resonance induction as the EV moves or is parked directly above the coils. A power-management unit located either underground or above-ground near the roadside will transfer the energy from the electric grid to the roadway's copper-coil infrastructure. “Cloud-based management software enables live monitoring and provides smart charging insights,” Ezer explained. 

Electreon’s technology solution has 19 patents covering various proprietary aspects, including the engineered system architecture and the communication mechanism between an EV fitted with a power receiver and the embedded roadway coils. “The intellectual property of our vehicle receivers will be released to OEMs for free,” Ezer promised.

Both the battery size and the number of receivers connected to an EV influence the charging time. “The driving speed has a negligible effect on the charging performance,” Ezer explained. He said to date, Electreon has tested its receivers up to a speed of 49.7 mph (80 kph). As an example, if a commercial truck with five receivers is traveling at 37 mph (60 kph), 37 miles (60 km) of electrified road is needed to fully charge the battery. If the vehicle is traveling at 12.4 mph (20 kph), 12.4 miles (20 km) of electrified road are needed to fully charge the battery. 

Larger vehicles can support multiple Electreon receivers. For instance, Class 8 trucks can be fitted with up to seven undercarriage receivers. Buses could have three receivers, while passenger vans might have two receivers. “The number of receivers on an electric vehicle depends on the use case, the vehicle size, and the vehicle type,” Ezer said. Each Electreon receiver for heavy-duty EVs is capable of supplying up to 25 kW to the battery. Based on the power transfer rate requirements of light-duty passenger EVs, Electreon offers 7 kW and 11 kW receiver options. 

Michele Mueller, MDOT senior project manager for connected and automated vehicles, said that electrified roadways could accelerate the adoption of EVs by enabling continuous vehicle operation via safe and sustainable public street energy platforms. “A wireless in-road charging system will be revolutionary for EVs by potentially extending an EV's battery charge without having to stop (and plug-in),” Mueller said. She added that electrified roadways also could reduce EV range anxiety. 

Michigan’s largest energy provider, DTE, anticipates the project will accelerate interest in EVs. “As a partner, we are taking the learnings from the project to better prepare our customers for the future of EV charging,” said Ben Burns, DTE’s director of transportation electrification. The Detroit-based company intends to have its own EV fleet use the electrified roadway.  

Four-season testing
The Detroit demonstration project will provide a four-season venue to test hardware and performance objectives. Electreon’s Tongur said that based on findings from ongoing projects in Europe, weather won’t be an issue. “Since the (wireless) infrastructure lies beneath the roadway, the energy transfer is not affected by snow and ice. The road can be maintained – plowed, salted, etc. – as usual without affecting the coils beneath the asphalt,” Tongur said.

For the pilot project, the site host will be billed for the electricity usage. That host “can then collect revenue directly from users through the management unit’s metering and billing capabilities,” Burns noted. For non-pilot programs, Electreon’s Charging as a Service business model calls for EV fleet operators to pay a monthly subscription. The subscription covers the wireless charging infrastructure, operation, maintenance and smart-charging software services, Ezer explained. 

EV sales accounted for less than 2% of all new vehicle sales in Michigan for 2021, but double-digit percentage growth is expected by mid-decade. “Our internal forecast projects EV sales to be 10 percent in 2025, 20 percent in 2030, and 35 percent in 2035,” Burns said about Michigan’s EV future. Today, there are approximately 32,000 EVs in Michigan with 21,800 in DTE’s southeast Michigan service territory.

Wireless charging of EVs isn’t new to America, as the largest fleet of all-electric transit buses in the U.S. use a patented wireless charging system from Salt Lake City, Utah-based WAVE (Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification). Forty-eight of Southern California’s Antelope Valley Transit Authority’s 54 BYD-built buses are fitted with WAVE undercarriage receivers. Those WAVE-compatible electric buses use wireless charging depots located within a 100 square-mile (260 km) area. Additionally, wireless charging of EVs via a non-public electrified roadway is an ongoing R&D and testing endeavor of Utah State University’s Electric Vehicle & Roadway (EVR) facility and test track.

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