A new magnetized road surface will pave the way to in-road wireless EV charging, with Indiana leading the charge (photo courtesy of Magment).

Woke In The Streets: In-Road Wireless EV Charging Comes To Indiana

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The dream of an in-road, wireless EV charging system is not so dreamy any more. Indiana is among the states developing systems that will enable electric vehicles to recharge while in motion. That’s the sort of convenience that will help more drivers make the switch from gasmobiles to electric drive, much to the delight of some Indiana office holders, but not others.

Indiana Is Prepped & Ready For In-Road Wireless EV Charging

Despite its former reputation as one of the nation’s top 10 coal producing states and its ongoing status as host of the iconic gas-guzzling Indy 500 auto racing event, Indiana emerged as an early promoter of vehicle electrification back in 2010. The state has lagging on the development of an EV charging network since then, compared to its neighbors. However, the sleeping giant is beginning to stir.

Last June, the Indianapolis Star summed up the state of affairs. “Indiana, historically a crossroads of transformational transportation innovation, is racing toward an electrified automotive future,” noted reporters Kayla Dwyer and Sarah Bowman, who observed that ongoing electrification projects have been flying under the radar. They also indicated that the Inflation Reduction Act has lit a fire under state planning officials.

Energy stakeholders in the state have also been easing away from coal and transitioning to renewables. Indiana currently ranks a respectable 12th for installed wind energy capacity, and signs of life are finally stirring in the state’s solar industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association anticipates that Indiana will accelerate its solar profile over the next five years with about 7 gigawatts in new capacity.

Other points of interest include the Indiana National Guard, which is among those on board with the decarbonization movement. The grid operator for Indiana and 14 other states, MISO, is also planning a massive new transmission line expansion to help shuttle more clean kilowatts around the nation’s midsection.

Nation’s First In-Road Wireless EV Charging System, Eventually

Against this backdrop, the Indiana Department of Transportation sent a ripple through the media landscape of the Hoosier State last week, when it updated the Twitterverse on its road electrification project:

“Roads that charge your electric vehicle while you drive?! Today’s INDOT Innovates feature is one of the first of its kind: a contactless wireless-charging concrete pavement highway segment,” INDOT tweeted on February 13.

“This project just began in 2021, and is moving along quickly,” the agency added.

The race is on, indeed. CleanTechnica has spotted other in-road wireless EV charging systems in various stages of development over the past 10 years or so. That includes locations in Germany and Sweden as well as the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other roads in the US. Detroit is also in the running for the first electrified road in the US.

The Ferrite Difference

Regardless of who gets there first, the Indiana wireless EV charging project is apparently the first of its kind in the US. The system is based on a new form of magnetized concrete developed by the German startup Magment GmbH.

“Dynamic charging is the future solution for charging electric vehicles where devices installed in highway pavements will deliver electrical energy to battery electric vehicles on the road using a magnetic field,” Magment explained. “An antenna mounted to the vehicle bottom passes through the magnetic field generating an electrical current that charges the batteries.”

That sounds simple enough, compared to other wireless systems in the works. One key advantage is the elimination of in-ground copper wiring. Instead, Magment has come up with a concrete mixture that incorporates ferrite, a ceramic material with magnetic properties.

Our friends over at the magnet supplier First 4 Magnets note that the first ceramic magnets were produced in the 1930s. “Ceramic magnets, also known as ferrite magnets, are a type of permanent magnet and are made of the chemical compound Ferrite, which consists of ceramic materials and iron oxide (Fe2O3), the chemical composition is SrO-6(Fe2O3),” they explain.

First 4 Magnets also notes that raw materials, strontium carbonate and iron oxide, are “abundantly and economically available.” Apparently Magment got the message. The company plans to source its production line with material recycled from e-waste.

Who’s Afraid Of The Big, Bad Woke

All this is by way of saying that Indiana is doing its part to help push fossil energy out of the US economy, despite the posturing of “anti-woke” Republican officials who oppose the corporate ESG (environment, social, governance) movement.

The “woke capitalism” canard has led to a series of policy conflicts among Republican office holders. Kentucky, for example, is now home to a new factory that will churn out steel for the offshore wind industry, despite the anti-ESG saber-rattling of State Attorney General Daniel Cameron. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved a 15-year incentive package for the new plant.

Then there’s West Virginia, which is on track to manufacture coal-killing energy storage modules and ship them all around the country. Republican Governor Jim Justice and other state officials support the project, as does the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, even though State Treasurer Riley Moore has loudly declaimed the evils of ESG investing.

Indiana Catches Anti-ESG Fever

Indiana’s wireless EV charging project is another example. If all goes according to plan, Magment’s magnetic concrete will be poured onto roads all across the country. Nevertheless, the state’s Republican Governor, Eric J. Holcomb, came out firmly in favor of the project when it launched in 2021.

“Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America and we’re committed to fortifying our position as a transportation leader by innovating to support the emerging vehicle technology,” he said.

“This partnership to develop wireless charging technology for highways sends a strong signal that Indiana is on the leading edge of delivering the infrastructure needed to support the adoption of electric vehicles,” he added.

Meanwhile, though, Indiana State Attorney General Todd Rokita is among other state officials leading the charge against “woke capitalism.”

As reported by the Indiana Capital Chronicle, last September Rokita held a virtual event to announce his official advisory opinion on the matter.

“Woke big businesses are collaborating with their leftist allies to subvert the will of the people,” Rokita said. “This includes investing Hoosiers’ pensions in ways that work against the best interest of Indiana families.”

As summarized by the Chronicle, that means “Indiana and its investment managers can’t make government employee pension system investments based on environmental, social or governance criteria.”

Indiana Lawmakers Aim At ESG, Hit Indiana Businesses

Earlier this year the Indiana State Legislature chimed in with a pair of bills aimed at preventing the state’s pension funds from prioritizing ESG factors, and ordering them to divest in investments related to China, to boot.

If the bills pass into law, they may not necessarily slow Indiana’s march towards an all-electric future. However, it is not a good look for Indiana businesses in general, and the leading road construction materials firm The Heritage Group in particular.

The Heritage Group has a subsidiary called Heritage Environmental Technologies, which “is focused on technical solutions that improve the environment,” so it’s no surprise to see HET hooking up with Magment in the wireless EV charging project.

“Magment and HET believe that magnetizable asphalt will allow efficient and cost-effective construction of electric roads that will supply energy to vehicles of the future,” Magment enthused in a press release announcing the collaboration last fall.

“Magment and HET are proud to support the transition from carbon-based transportation fuels to electricity,” Magment emphasized. The company also reminded everyone that Indiana’s wireless EV charging project is not a one-off. It comes under the portfolio of the national ASPIRE electrification program.

“Magment and HET are also cooperating to implement wireless charging technology in China,” Magment noted.

Oopsies!

The Construction and Materials branch of Heritage is also part of an industry-wide road materials decarbonization program called The Road Forward. “HC+M is committed to sustainability because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s smart business,” explains HC+M CEO Geoff Dillon.

Indiana’s anti-ESG lawmakers are just one factor complicating life for Indiana businesses. Last August, Governor Holcomb joined with Rokita and state lawmakers to dunk on women, girls, and other pregnancy-capable people with the passage of a new law imposing brutal new limits on access to abortion and potentially ban certain types of contraceptives, too.

A county judge blocked the law from taking effect last fall, and the state’s Supreme Court is currently pondering the constitutionality of the matter.

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

Photo: Magnetized road surface for in-road wireless EV charging courtesy of Magment.


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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3292 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey