Volvo, a Swedish vehicle manufacturer, plans to test an electric road that recharges vehicles’ batteries as they drive over it.
The road, which will initially be used to recharge buses, would use inductive charging technology to wirelessly charge vehicles as they drove over it, eliminating the need for downtime while a vehicle is plugged in.
The company plans to build a test road measuring between 300m and 500m in Gothenburg, Sweden, next year. It will be used to recharge a number of the city’s buses as they follow their normal route.
Power for the road will come from Gothenburg’s electricity grid, although it is quite possible that local electricity sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines, could be used if the technology was transferred to other, more remote areas.
Inductive charging has previously been proposed as a solution to recharging electric vehicles as they drive, but this is the first time the technology will be put into practice.
The technology will require the buses to be fitted with a special charging system so that they can continuously charge as they drive, a move that will also be necessary for any electric cars that want to use the innovation, should it be rolled out after the trial.
Electric roads are one of many solutions that Volvo is looking at to further transport technology.
“We are working on both a broad and a deep basis to develop the technology of tomorrow,” explained Niklas Gustavsson, Volvo Group executive vice president of corporate sustainability and public affairs. “Electric roads are another important part of the puzzle in our aim of achieving transport solutions that will minimise the impact on the environment.”
Road-based technology is on the increase, with a number of innovations announced in the past few years.
Solar Roadways, the technology that turns roads and car parks into giant solar panels to power nearby buildings or recharge stationary vehicles, was reported on by Factor back in March and has since generated considerable interest. The company is currently crowdfunding via Indiegogo with the hope of raising $1m.
There have also been a number of proposals relating to the automation of vehicles and roadside equipment, such as talking traffic lights, which are set to be trialled in Japan to reduce road rage.
Of course not all of these technologies can exist together. At present there is no way to combine inductive charging and solar roads, although the potential of such a combination is quite exciting.
No matter what technology prevails, however, one thing seems clear: the days of simple tarmac roads are definitely numbered.
Body images courtesy of Volvo Group.