Following the path of digitalization in Slovenia and Europe: Electrified roads would allow electric vehicles unlimited range

The number of kilometres an electric vehicle can travel on a single charge and the charging itself are often among the most discussed disadvantages of switching to this type of car.

Today’s average range of electric cars is around 400 kilometres on a single charge, and some models from leading companies can go significantly longer. Charging time largely depends on the charging point. A car can be charged in just 30 minutes, or it can take up to half a day. In any case, it takes longer than filling a diesel-and petrol-fuelled motor vehicle.

Of course, there is still much room for innovation and improvement in electric vehicles. For example, some companies are developing a different type of battery that could at least double the range. On the other hand, there might be a solution that could almost completely eliminate both problems: charging and the distance each vehicle can travel.

So-called electric roads have wireless electric vehicle charging infrastructure installed under the asphalt. This could allow electric vehicles to operate 24 hours a day with unlimited range. One of the leading companies in this field is Israel’s Electreon Wireless, which is developing technology that can be used to charge all electric vehicles, regardless of brand or type of battery.

Wireless electric road technology is based on magnetic resonance induction with copper coils embedded under the surface of a roadway. Unique copper coils are installed just below the road surface on motorways, bus stops, parking lots, or at commercial depot centres. The coils are then covered with asphalt.

The coils transfer energy to a receiver that can be mounted under any kind of electric vehicle, such as trucks, vans, buses and cars.

Demonstration scheme of wireless charging while driving. Photo source: Electron.
Demonstration scheme of wireless charging while driving. Photo source: Electron.

In this way, three different charging methods are enabled. The first is dynamic charging, which involves charging vehicles in motion along their daily routes. It is especially suitable for trucks and buses that travel daily from one point to another and back.

The second method is semi-dynamic charging, which means installing infrastructure where vehicles are temporarily stopped. Examples are taxis waiting for passengers at train stations and airports or vehicles waiting to enter logistics hubs and ports. Such a system is also suitable for vehicles stopped at intersections at the traffic lights.

Stationary charging is the wireless charging of vehicles in parking lots, bus stations or loading docks. In short, everywhere where vehicles are usually parked for a long time and possibly turned off.

Compared to classic charging, where we must connect the car to a charging point, wireless charging has quite a few advantages, as users can avoid problems with connectors that they could run into with so-called “plug-in” charging.

Three different ways to wirelessly charge vehicles. Photo source: Electreon.
Three different ways to wirelessly charge vehicles. Photo source: Electreon.

Wireless systems can also lead to smaller car batteries, making them more sustainable, cheaper, and lighter. In addition, space for passengers and luggage would improve.

Co-founder and CEO of Electreon, Oren Ezer, said in an interview with Global Fleet that he would like to see a situation in the future where every road has charging capabilities.

“I believe that will be the case, but perhaps only in 50 years’ time. Ultimately, that is how we want to see vehicles being charged because it eliminates the need for large batteries,” he explained. “Why? Because we have limited resources. Because we don’t want to end up with billions of big batteries, we can’t recycle. That’s not green. Wireless charging can do that: it connects us to the grid, but without wires.”

In June of this year, Electreon successfully completed the last phase of the “Arena of the Future” project, as part of which they plan to build a road strip at Bergamo Airport near the Italian city of Milan. The electric road system would thus power buses and official vehicles at the airport, the statement said.

As part of the project, they integrated their wireless technology to charge an IVECO bus and a Fiat Nuova 500 passenger vehicle while driving. Before that, a one-kilometre-long electrified road was tested in the nearby city of Brescia since November 2020.

A car while driving on an electric charging road in Brescia, northern Italy, built by  Electreon. Photo source: Electreon.
A car while driving on an electric charging road in Brescia, northern Italy, built by Electreon. Photo source: Electreon.

Meticulous Research expects that the wireless charging market for electric vehicles will be worth 827 million USD globally by 2027. Most of this growth will be directed towards static wireless charging in parking garages and bus or truck stops.

The Asia-Pacific region accounted for the largest wireless EV charging systems market share in 2020, followed by Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa, and Latin America.

However, Europe is expected to record the highest annual growth rate in the period to 2027. The factors contributing to the high growth of the European market are the increasing adoption of electric vehicles, implementation of numerous pilot projects for wireless EV charging technology, and government initiatives for testing the feasibility of wireless charging technology for electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, in Europe, in 2020, Germany accounted for the largest share of the wireless charging systems for the electric vehicles market. Meticulous Research attributes the market growth mainly to the extensive government support and expansion in charging infrastructure.

For example, last year, the German government approved the eCharge project worth 1.9 million EUR for implementing wireless dynamic charging technology on the roads of Braunschweig, Germany.

The project initiators are scientists from the Technical University of Braunschweig (Technische Universität Braunschweig), collaborating with companies in automotive production, road construction, and energy infrastructure sectors.

“When a new road is built or renewed, the coils are installed at a depth of approximately ten centimetres and covered with an asphalt layer so that they cannot be seen from the outside,” explained Prof. Michael Wistuba from the Institute for Roads at the TU. “Power cables lead out of the road at a distance of 1.65-metres… into a so-called management unit, i.e., a control cabinet, at intervals of approx. Ninety metres [on the kerbside]. These communicate with the vehicles via the coils and switch road sections on or off as required.”

If the project is successful, the plan is to build 25-kilometre electrified charging corridors at intervals along German motorways so that it is possible to extend the range by up to 20% in each section, the professor added.

Setting up wireless charging infrastructure on the Swedish island of Gotland. Photo source: SmartRoad Gotland.
Setting up wireless charging infrastructure on the Swedish island of Gotland. Photo source: SmartRoad Gotland.

On the Swedish island of Gotland, wireless charging was installed on a 1.6-kilometre stretch of road where all types of electric vehicles can be charged. “It’s invisible, so when you look at the road, you don’t see anything,” Petra Carlenarson, project manager on the SmartRoad project, explained.

The project is led by several organisations, headed by Electreon AB, a subsidiary of the Israeli company Electreon. The project is one of four electric road projects funded by the Swedish Transport Administration.

The idea of wireless charging while driving is undoubtedly attractive and worthy of further development and ideas. In principle, it can solve quite a few problems with electric cars. However, the central question of whether the electricity that powers electric vehicles is of “green” origin or not remains unresolved.

Author: Marko Želko

Keywords: digitisation, electric cars, electric power supply, electricity.


This article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the European Parliament. 

The information and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information contained therein.