Roadside electric car recharging could become a thing of the past, if this wireless charging road prototype proves feasible in the real world.
The race to recharge electric cars as fast as filling with petrol – and to extend their battery driving range beyond a petrol or diesel car – may be won without ever needing to plug in.
A group of companies including automotive giant Stellantis – the merger of Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat-Chrysler – has revealed a kilometre-long stretch of road fitted with inductive charging technology, which can keep an electric vehicle’s battery topped up as it drives along.
The technology (officially dubbed Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer, or DWPT) functions similarly to a wireless charger for your phone, with grids of coils placed under the asphalt to transfer energy to vehicles fitted with special “receivers”.
Stellantis and its partners say the latest tests have found the energy transfer from road to car “comparable to the typical efficiency of fast charging stations”, even at highway speeds – eliminating the need to pull over and plug in to recharge.
Like a roadside fast charger, the prototype road uses DC charging technology, allowing for reduced energy losses, easier connection with “renewable energy sources”, and the use of thinner, cheaper and easier-to-recycle aluminium cables.
Stellantis says the magnetic field produced by the road has “no impact on the driver and passengers”, and with all cables and electronics kept under the road, it is “safe for people to walk on”.
The road is also said to connect with 5G and Internet of Things systems – and can be adapted to suit both dynamic on-road driving, or static situations such as “harbours, airports, and parking lots”.
Whether the Stellantis-backed wireless charging road technology will ever be rolled out en masse remains to be seen, however the manufacturer says it will continue to develop the technology with its partners.
“Our long-term strategic plan, Dare Forward 2030, is based on the premise of bringing ‘cutting-edge freedom of mobility’ to all and this project is the very essence of where we’re headed as a company,” said Anne-Lise Richard, Head of Global e-Mobility Business Unit at Stellantis.
“Working with this incredible group of partners, we have proven that inductive recharging technology can power our electrified future.”
The concept of inductive electric vehicle charging built into a road is not new, with a number of other European start-ups developing and trialling their own systems – though none have expanded beyond limited-time trials.
The current electric car charging benchmark sits with models including the Lucid Air luxury sedan and GMC Hummer EV off-roader, which can accept energy at up to 350kW on a DC fast charger.
Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020. Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines as a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.