We’ve been covering the rise of the electric vehicle here at Motor Vision for a long time, but it’s only in recent years that the technology has become bolder and more inventive.
Sweden has now revealed a stretch of road near Stockholm that can charge Electric Vehicles (EVs) as they continue on their journey – but is this just a glorified Scalextric or the modern equivalent of the tram, or is it something much more innovative?
Whatever this charging road is, it is most certainly the first of its kind to see reality. The road is quite short in driving terms at only 1.2 miles in length (2km) but it is an adaption of an existing public road – which is a crucial point. If this technology required an entirely new road each time, it would surely be far too cost prohibitive.
How Does It Work?
Currently, the existing powered road is split into two sections of 50m length and are only powered when needed to be; that is, when a vehicle capable of receiving a charge is directly above. The system is smart too, and will be able to calculate the energy consumption of the vehicle and apply the charge to that singular vehicle.
Sweden plans to alleviate itself of fossil fuels within the next 12 years and the ambitious plan is to electrify around 20,000km of Sweden’s highways, making the distance between electrification and standard roads no more than 45km. Cost is estimated to be around 1 million Euros per km.
Of course, where there is electricity, the weather and the public, safety concerns are paramount. Because the electrified rail is only active when a vehicle needs it, energy consumption is also reduced, but what happens when it rains? Hans Säll is Chief Executive of the company behind all of this, eRoadArlanda, and he says that we should think of it in terms of our wall plugs – in that no electricity is ‘at the surface’ in much the same way that our wall plug sockets ensure that you have to make the effort to poke around inside the female connectors before you start to alarm anyone in the same room as you (don’t do that). Apparently, if the rail is flooded then the charge at the surface is just 1 volt.
So now maybe we can drop the Scelextric analogy too and think of it in a similar way to how an underground/metro train receives power – even more so when you think back to the overhead power lines that Sweden have also experimented with for truck and lorry recharging. Though of course this has a major flaw in that it is not able to be used by cars and smaller vans.
A few questions occur to me though; what happens during icy conditions and how is the small recessed rail area kept clean and unobstructed going forward – will road-cleaning lorries need to be adapted? How accurate do you need to be driving to maintain a connection and will this cause any potential road user distraction? I’m sure if this proves to be a success that these questions will be answered in time. What it does promise to do is to alleviate concerns that still linger about the spacing and availability of electric vehicle charging points.
Images: thedrive.com, techxplore.com, curbed.com