Michigan, historically the focus of the American auto industry, has announced a new initiative to develop the nation’s first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road. The Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot is a partnership between the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.
The idea is to deploy an electrified roadway system that allows electric buses, shuttles, and vehicles to charge while driving, allowing them to operate continuously without stopping to charge. In principle, such electrified roadways have the potential to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and turn public streets into safe and sustainable shared energy platforms. This is especially valuable for drivers who might not have easy access to conventional charging facilities.
The pilot program is seeking proposals to design, fund, evaluate, iterate, test, and implement an inductive charging system along a one-mile stretch of state-operated roadway in Michigan.
The basic concept is to embed coils in a road that will convey electricity to cars outfitted with coils of their own. It is much like the wireless charging pads used to power up smartphones. Indiana is pursuing a similar project in the next couple of years.
Clearly driving through a one mile stretch of roadway for minute or two is not going to provide a whole lot of energy by whatever coupling mechanism is used. Scaling up the technology represents a significant challenge at the very least. How practical such a scheme is from both a technology and an economic perspective remains to be seen. In any case, it is interesting to see that states are looking at various alternatives for providing access to charging infrastructure to the growing population of electrified vehicles.
Photo, posted September 6, 2020, courtesy of Chris Yarzab via Flickr.