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Embedding wireless EV charging systems in roadways may seem futuristic, but the future is now (photo courtesy of Electreon).

Autonomous Vehicles

It’s For Real: Wireless EV Charging For Germany’s Famous Autobahn

Embedding wireless EV charging systems in roadways may seem futuristic, but on Germany’s Autobahn the future is now.

Germany’s Autobahn public roadway system is getting its first ever wireless EV charging system, but don’t rush over there with your new EV just yet. The first lucky drivers to put the new system through its paces will not be putting the Autobahn’s famous speed limit to the test. They will be sitting behind the wheel of a bus ferrying passengers into the city of Balingen, in the southwestern corner of Germany.

What Is The Point Of Wireless EV Charging?

At first glance, embedding wireless EV charging equipment in a roadway may not seem worth the effort. Whenever the EV charging station network is fully built out, EV drivers can simply pull over at a convenient station to recharge their battery pack.

However, last spring Kami Buchholz of the engineering organization SAE International took a look at a wireless EV charging system under way in Detroit, Michigan, and came up with an answer.

“Michele Mueller, MDOT [Michigan Department of Transportation] senior project manager for connected and automated vehicles, said that electrified roadways could accelerate the adoption of EVs by enabling continuous vehicle operation via safe and sustainable public street energy platforms,” Buchholz explained.

“’A wireless in-road charging system will be revolutionary for EVs by potentially extending an EV’s battery charge without having to stop (and plug-in),’ Mueller said. She added that electrified roadways also could reduce EV range anxiety,” Buchholz also wrote.

The US Department of Energy assessed the situation in back in 2012 and noted the additional benefit of reducing the need for excess energy storage on board the vehicle.

In terms of convenience, wireless on-road charging is also likely to have a ripple effect on all EV drivers, especially during peak travel periods. When millions of EVs start hitting the highways, on-road charging could help reduce wait times at off-road charging stations.

The Electreon Wireless EV Charging System

The future of both stationary and on-road wireless systems is beginning to shape, and the Israeli wireless EV charging company Electreon is among those to cross the CleanTechnica radar. In 2020 we spotted Electreon at work on a wireless system in Tel Aviv. Electreon also has the demonstration projects in Michigan and Sweden under its wing, among others. Now the company is setting its sights on Germany.

According to Electreon, the new on-road wireless project in Balingen will be the first of its kind in Germany.

The project is a collaboration with the diversified energy and infrastructure firm EnBW. It will involve one kilometer of roadway along with two stationary charging systems, which will be placed at stops along the bus route.

“The technology will be deployed in the city of Balingen in two phases,” Electreon explains. “In the first phase, a 400-meter-long route with two static charging stations will be deployed. In the second phase, the electric road will be expanded by another 600 meters. The project will charge an electric bus, en route to the city.

EnBW has already checked out the wireless system on a purpose-built stretch of road, constructed at its training center in the city of Karlsruhe. Apparently they like what they see. Electreon will receive up to €3.2 million for the Balingen project.

EnBW’s project manager, Dr. Maximilian Arnold, makes it clear that flying down the Autobahn at top zero-emission speed is not in the cards, at least not in the near future. However, he does indicate that the Balingen project will be the first of many, if the demonstration project pans out.

The immediate aim is to make “wireless charging technically fit for German public transport,” he stated in a press release.

“This also includes convincing authorities, energy network operators, bus operators, and the general public of the opportunities,” he added.

In addition, Electreon plans to use the Balingen project to develop a new tool that will help public transportation planners decide the optimal location for wireless infrastructure in various locations, relieving them from the burden of having to reinvent the wheel for each new project.

The Wide World Of Wireless EV Charging

If there are any lingering doubts about the feasibility of wireless EV charging, SAE is eager to put them to rest.

Earlier this week, SAE published a new Technical Information Report that “paves the way for charging HD [heavy duty] vehicles without the need for plugging in — widely considered to be a key enabler for accelerating the adoption of EVs and autonomous vehicles.”

The report, titled, SAE TIR J2954/2 Wireless Power Transfer & Alignment for Heavy Duty Applications, follows a 2020 TIR that focused on standards for light-duty vehicles.

“The SAE TIR J2954/2 exponentially increases the power level of Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) for heavy-duty vehicles,” the organization explained in a press release.

“Charging a heavy-duty EV should be as simple as parking in the right spot — the wireless charging SAE TIR J2954/2 Guideline makes it possible to do that automatically,” emphasized Jesse Schneider, who chairs the SAE Wireless Power Transfer Task Force (ZEV Station).

How It Works

SAE also provides a helpful primer on wireless charging.

“Power is transferred by creating a magnetic resonance field between the ground transmitting assembly and a vehicle assembly fitted on the underbody of a HD vehicle. The energy crosses an air gap (the ground clearance between the pads) and is then converted from AC into DC on the vehicle to charge the vehicle batteries,” SAE explains, adding that wireless charging is both safe and energy-efficient.

“Field trials using a 10-in. (250-mm) ground clearance has shown that WPT systems operate at grid-to-battery efficiencies of 92+%,” they note.

As for on-road charging, Schneider states that “the J2954/2 enables dynamic wireless power transfer, making it possible to charge while driving at roadway speeds.”

“This enables a leap forward for wireless charging for EV heavy-duty vehicles by establishing a common vehicle and parking location and frequency.”

The Power Of The Fleet

Much attention has been spent on convincing individual car buyers to support the transition to electric vehicles, but the somewhat less glamorous field of fleet electrification is also an important driver of decarbonization, as SAE emphasizes. That includes all sorts of businesses and agencies including the massive fleets of the US Postal Service and the Department of Defense.

SAE describes wireless EV charging as a mindset-changer for fleet managers, because it reduces the logistics of EV charging to simply driving down the road, or parking in a parking space.

Regarding on-road charging, SAE agrees with the US Department of Energy about the attraction for fleet managers. Wireless charging on-the-go will enable auto makers to reduce the size of battery packs. That may not be a significant consideration for passenger cars, but for bus and truck fleet managers the attraction would be to avoid unnecessary down time, while reducing the cost of the vehicle and freeing up more cargo space.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey (for now).

Find me on LinkedIn: @TinaMCasey or Mastodon: @Casey or Post:  @tinamcasey

Photo: Wireless electric vehicle charging system installation courtesy of Electreon (presentation page 11).

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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