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UK motorway to charge electric cars on the move

The Highways Agency intends to equip an English motorway to test wireless charging of moving electric cars.

A spokesperson has confirmed an off-the-cuff reference, by an official at an ITS(UK) EV working group meeting, to plan for the UK’s first on-road trial of dynamic as opposed to static car charging.

This will mark a step change in EV charging activity that has focused mainly on electric buses until now. A newcomer in this sector is Transport Scotland, which, working with Scottish Enterprise and bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, plans to trial a ‘semi-dynamic’ system using a hybrid-electric vehicle in Glasgow this summer.

Claimed benefits of on-the-road charging – using electromagnetic fields generated by subsurface modules – include extended range and smaller batteries. US research at North Carolina State University (NCSU) suggests that car ranges could increase from around 100km to nearly 500km.

The HA says its initiative is supporting the government’s low-carbon policy by “promoting the advantages of ultra-low-emission vehicles”. At the same time, UK transport consultancy TRL has won a tranche of the €9m European Commission (EC) co-funded FABRIC programme set up to assess technological aspects of dynamic charging.

The Highways Agency (HA) has yet to give details of the trial site or dates. But it has issued criteria for system adoption, including a lifecycle comparable to that of asphalt (typically around 16 years), cost-effective maintenance, resistance to vibration and weather, and efficient charge collection at high speeds.

UK static inductive charging experience to date involves test cars parking at existing plug-in stations in London and an electric bus service launched in January 2014 in Milton Keynes, where vehicles top up their overnight charge during drivers’ rest breaks. Managing this five-year demonstration is the eFleet Integrated Service joint venture between Mitsui Europe and consulting engineers Arup.

Arup helped create a wireless power transfer system branded HALO in Auckland, New Zealand in 2010. US wireless technology developer Qualcomm, which bought HALO in 2011, is running the London static car trial and planning a dynamic test track in Auckland.


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