Electric vehicle drivers in Sweden could soon be able to recharge their cars while driving, after the Scandinavian nation unveiled the world’s first public “electric road” on Wednesday.
The government-backed project is in the very early stages, and so far comprises just 2km of one public road, where an electric rail has been installed in the middle of one driving lane.
But the eRoadArlanda consortium behind the project argue that it holds considerable promise as a relatively cheap and easy solution to the niggling problems of EV cost and range anxiety, by allowing manufacturers to reduce battery size.
According to New Mobility News, the technology itself is fairly simple: a moveable arm, fitted to the bottom of the EV, delivers the electric charge when it connects with a metal rail embedded into the road – a bit like the mechanism used to propel toy slot cars. (See video below.)
When the vehicle moves away from its lane, the arm is automatically retracted. The technology can also calculate the amount of energy each car has consumed and debit it to the appropriate vehicle and user.
So far, the small stretch of test eRoad – which is on a route that connects the international freight airport of Stockholm Arlanda with a distribution centre at Rosersberg – is only being used by electric postal trucks belonging to PostNord.
But at a cost of €1 million per kilometre, the cost of rolling out the technology to more of Sweden’s roads and highways, and to the EV-driving public, is estimated to be 50 times lower than that required to construct an urban tram line.
It is also believed to be easier and cheaper to install – on both roads and cars – than charging by induction, or the overhead wire system Sweden experimented with two years ago.
— Joris Van Roy (@jorisvry) April 12, 2018
Hans Säll, chief executive of the eRoadArlanda consortium, said existing vehicles and roadways both could be adapted to use the technology. But the roll-out on the nation’s roads would mostly be restricted to its highways.
“If we electrify 20,000km of highways that will definitely be be enough,” he told the Guardian. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45km and electric cars can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged. Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000km.”
For those concerned about the safety of the system, Säll says it is about as dangerous a a power outlet in the wall.
“Five or six centimetres down is where the electricity is. But if you flood the road with salt water then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot,” he told the Guardian.
The Swedish government, meanwhile, is said to be in talks with Berlin about a future network.