Monday, 3 june 2019 | Redacción CEU
In the automotive industry, no one seems to doubt about the fact that the future of cars will be electric. Although the course is clear, the guidelines that have to be followed are not. The different players in the sector should still answer many questions: Are the electrical networks in the different countries prepared for the full implementation of these cars? Do electric vehicles have enough range to please their users? How can the transition to this electrical paradigm be effectively managed? What happens when batteries break down? Is this production model sustainable? How to solve the problem of insufficient charging points? For its part, Sweden seems to have thrown itself into answering this last question: the solution could be found in electric roads.
The new electric mobility considers the construction of smart and sustainable roads as one of its most avant-garde lines of work. There are several initiatives in different parts of the world (China and Germany are good examples of it) which propose that roads have no longer to be passive elements that enable the displacement from one point to another, but instruments for energy supply. In particular, one of the countries that is focusing its efforts on the development of this type of road is Sweden. This is demonstrated by the announcement of its latest project: the construction of a road which charge electric cars and trucks by induction through asphalt.
At the forefront of this project is the Smart Road Gotland consortium, which is led by a subsidiary company of ElectReon Wireless. They are responsible for building a 1.6 km long electric road as part of the total 4.1 km between the airport and the city of Visby on the island of Gotland. The idea is that the drivers of electric vehicles can charge their batteries wirelessly, simply by traveling on the road. They will do it thanks to a copper coil placed under the road that may enable the continuous flow of electricity.
The construction of this section is part of the roadmap which was set for transport electrification by the Swedish government. The Swedish Transport Administration will evaluate the results which are obtained by an electric truck in varied seasonal conditions to ensure that the system is ready, so that a large-scale project can be implemented soon. This is a plan that has a large budget and that includes the implementation in the country of approximately 2,000 kilometers of electric roads. They expect this initiative to have a considerable impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions from heavy-duty transport in the country.
Sweden has long been aware of the fact that for the successful electrification of its fleet, it still has to work on overcoming some obstacles, such as vehicles' range and the available charging infrastructure. Therefore, this project is not the first one in the country. Sweden has tried to find the magic formula to succeed in this line of innovation for years. For example, in 2018, Sweden inaugurated the first section of eRoadArlanda. The initiative was born with the same idea of the road in the island of Gotland: electric cars would be loaded on the road along the journey.
However, there is a key difference between these two projects. In this case, charging on the road is not wireless. In fact, this project precisely became famous for its particular charging system which had led it being compared to a real-size Scalextric. The route, which joins Arlanda with a logistics center outside the capital in Rosenberg, has an electrified rail which is similar to that of the legendary game. An arm, which is placed in the lower part of the vehicles which travel on this road, is able to detect the slit of the rail when cars pass over it and connect to it in order to make a charge at that moment.
Reasonably, this project requires vehicles which are specifically adapted for the use of this road, since conventional electric models do not have the aforementioned mechanical arm. It is a system that can be retracted at any time. For example, the arm is automatically removed in case vehicles leave the road or overtake a car. Besides, the design of these rails has taken into account the safety of the rest of vehicles that circulate on the road as well as the one of the people and animals that can interact with them.
Internal-combustion engine vehicles are a very important part of the current automotive market. Anyway, everything suggests this segment will gradually decrease and electric cars will end up taking their place. However, the electrification of the automobile fleet inevitably requires new approaches both in the vehicles and the infrastructures that surround them. It is important to keep in mind that electrification will not be the only trend to have an impact on the future of this industry. Cars will not only be electric, they will be connected to each other, to the outside world and also to the transport networks and infrastructures. It is likely that roads, apart from being electric, will also need to be connected.
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