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Sweden’s electrified road project could slash the cost of electric vehicles

05/21/2018
Graphic News

May 21, 2018 -- Sweden is testing the first road of its kind that can charge a vehicle as it drives along. The state-funded scheme, named eRoadArlanda, could potentially help cut the high cost of electric cars.

If you could directly charge electric cars as they were travelling along the highway the two biggest barriers to their success – range anxiety and cost – would be eliminated.

A project in Sweden called eRoadArlanda, which links electric trucks to Stockholm airport and a local distribution centre, is well on the way to proving that the electrified highway works.

Hans Saell, a spokesman for the eRoadArlanda project, believes pushing electricity into cars from a connection under the road will boost the technology in trucks, and could be scaled up to cars.

This promise to make recharging simple and ubiquitous would allow car manufacturers to put smaller batteries in their cars, currently so expensive as to make them unaffordable to the general public. Range anxiety would be a thing of the past too. Currently investors in hugely expensive charging infrastructure projects will be looking over their shoulders.

The eRoadArlanda project is backed by Swedish state-owned energy provider Vattenfall, Elways, an innovation company, and the construction and infrastructure company NCC. It uses Elways’ patented technology. Saell is CEO of the eRoadArlanda consortium and Business development manager at NCC.

Saell believes the concept is capable of scaling up for widespread adoption and could well lead to autoroutes across Europe being fitted with the technology.

“We definitely believe this is very scaleable. If you electrify the highways, manufacturers can use smaller batteries and it takes away range anxiety, and it costs less than €1 million ($1.2m) per kilometre. The cost of a tramway, for instance, is at least 50 times higher,” Saell said in an interview with Graphic News.

The electric power would be accessed from under the road safely, using a thin connector, in contrast to the exposed third rail often used to power electric trains. The vehicle would detect when a section of the highway was set up for recharging and automatically make the connection with a moveable arm, without cutting speed.

“This could be commercialised within 5 to 10 years in Sweden and will allow much smaller batteries to be used. The cost of batteries today is more or less half the price of the car and with this technology batteries would be half the size or smaller than those today,” Saell said.

The electrified road would augment other ways of charging including wireless technology, which could be used while cars are parked, and the traditional plug-in methods.

Some experts were sceptical about the impact of the development on the wider world of electric cars.

Nicolas Meilhan, analyst with Frost & Sullivan in Paris, said this would be very expensive.

“We won’t really have the money to invest in this kind of massive infrastructure project. Better to use what we already have more efficiently. If you want to electrify trucks, put them on trains. Curb private cars in cities and make better use of public transport, walking and cycling. Use plug-in hybrids for long distance driving and lightweight small electric cars for commuting,” Meilhan said.

Testing on electric trucks at eRoadArlanda started in April and will last at least 12 months. (Story: Neil Winton)


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