The in-road electricity bug that's bitten researchers from Utah to South Korea has flown to Sweden, where Volvo is working with a handful of partners to develop its own take on dynamic, wireless recharging technology.

The Swedish automaker recently reported that it's been testing an in-road charging system near its Gothenburg headquarters since last fall. Volvo, along with Alstom, the Swedish Energy Agency, Swedish Transport Administration and a number of universities, has built a quarter-mile-long track for such testing, which includes a so-called "current collector" on the testing trucks.

Researchers have looked into the idea of in-road dynamic recharging as a way for vehicles to go long distances without requiring massive batteries. A touchless magnetic induction system was developed in South Korea as far back as 2009. And last year, Utah State researchers said they were working on a program that involved an electric bus being wirelessly charged by a mile-and-a-half long in-road recharging system powered by coils inside the road bed. Between this, fast charging and Tesla's battery swaps, solutions to long-distance EV driving are popping up everywhere.

Check out Volvo's press release below.
Show full PR text
The road of tomorrow is electric

Consider a future where trucks and buses continuously are supplied with electric power without carrying large batteries. Instead, power lines are built into the surface of the road. This could be a future solution for long-distance trucks and buses running on electricity.

The Volvo Group already has extensive knowledge about electric drivetrains, but in order to become world leading in sustainable transport solutions, the Volvo Group must find even more solutions that allow the vehicles to operate on renewable energy. A great deal of this energy will be distributed as electricity. However, the challenge is about supplying the vehicle with electricity power when needed.

"In city traffic, there are currently various solutions and we are researching many others. We have field tests in progress where our plug-in buses are equipped with a battery that can be charged quickly when the buses are at bus stops," says Mats Alaküla, the Volvo Group's expert on electric vehicles and Professor at Lund University.

But for long-distance trucks and buses, this will not work. They stop infrequently and to cope with this task they would need so many batteries that there would be no room for any loads or passengers. A solution is required where power is continuously supplied to the truck from an external source.

The Volvo Group participates in a large Swedish research project to find solutions for this, with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency. The project includes the Swedish Transport Administration, Vattenfall, several universities, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

The method currently being developed and tested by the Volvo Group, together with Alstom, entails two power lines built into the surface of the road along the entire length of the road. A current collector in contact with the power lines will be located on the truck.

"With this method, electric vehicles could be continuously supplied with power without carrying large batteries," says Mats Alaküla. "The power line will be built in sections and one section is only live as the truck passes."

Last year, Volvo built a 400-meter long track at its testing facility in Hällered outside Gothenburg. The company has been testing the system since last autumn.

"We are currently testing how to connect the electricity from the road to the truck. The electricity flows into a water-cooled heating element, with similar power requirement as an electricity-driven truck," says Richard Sebestyen, who is the project manager at Volvo Group Trucks Technology, which is the Volvo Group's research and development division.

However, a great deal of research still remains before this can become a reality. It involves the continued technical development of the current collector, electric motor and the control systems required. It also involves road construction, road maintenance, electricity supply along the roads and various payment models, etc.

"A lot of years remain before this is on our roads," says Mats Alaküla.

"But, if we are to succeed in creating sustainable transport systems, we must invest significantly in research now. I am convinced that we will find a cost-efficient way to supply electricity to vehicles in long-distance traffic and we have already come a long way in our research."


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  • 41 Comments
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's easier to put on a pair of slippers than to carpet the world.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        Yep. That is also why people don't carpet their homes, but stick carpet tiles to their feet instead.
      Rotation
      • 2 Years Ago
      Neat. I think systems like this will be the key to getting large vehicles working on electricity for long trips. Much like electric trains. Get something like this working and batteries only need to have a short range (perhaps 20 miles) for off highway-driving at each end.
      Jim McL
      • 2 Years Ago
      Danny, it is Volvo Trucks, not Volvo cars doing this work. Volvo Trucks is a Swedish company that has nothing but a logo shared with the Chinese-owned Volvo cars. Just Like Renault Trucks has nothing to do with Renault cars anymore.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      For any place in the world that has freezing an thawing cycles, this looks like one long pothole magnet.
      nbsr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Robotic arm, small air-gap (assuming photo is real) - that could work. An obvious problem is the current in the "wire" - with effectively a half-turn inductor on the primary side that would need tens/hundreds of kilo-amps to transfer a useful amount of power. Hence, the thick slabs of copper on the photo. For trucks and buses traditional overhead wires would be better, cheaper and available today. The latter is a smoking gun - if politicians and investors were really interested in electrification they would have done it decades ago. Instead, many trolleybus installations were scrapped around that time.
      • 2 Years Ago
      This Volvo system cannot be used on snow (missing contact) and on heavy rainfall (aquaplaning of the charging device). On the other hand the inductive charging in the road is very complex, expensive and difficult to be sealed in bad conditions. A new system which solves the Volvo drawbacks is described in http://www.hybrid-engine-hope.com/hybrid_transport_system . This system is created for both trucks/buses and passenger cars and is not weather dependent.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      I seem to have mislaid the reference, but recently on this forum I was stunned to learn that, after you take into account the charging and transformer losses on charging and discharging a battery, through the road charging as you go can actually be more efficient than using a battery. The figures stuck in my mind, and were 85% for the through the road system, as against around 80% for the battery including all losses. If anyone has the reference, I would be most grateful. Of course, electric cars would still need a battery pack to get them around where the road is not electrified, but the comparable efficiency is good news. The only downside I can see for this, if it can be got working, is that demand would occur during the day, not off-peak, so the grid would need beefing up.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        'Then, we have 2 Miles/KWh figures. The first one is using the electricity used at the "wall" as shown by Blink. The second one is the "efficiency" as shown by Leaf. They differ by about 80% to 80%. That is the charging efficiency of the car.' http://www.plugincars.com/economy-efficiency-nissan-leaf-my-experience-after-3-months.html Maybe the efficiency of charging/discharging the battery can be increased somewhat, but the efficiency of wireless charging is not a fixed figure either and so may conceivably increase, so it seems that we can certainly do comparable or better efficiencies before weight savings are taken into account. Oak Ridge puts the cost at $1 million/mile as the charging rings are to be grouped and so the whole of the road does not have to be dug up. Theirs is a buried system unlike the surface one Volvo is looking at here. http://www.technologyreview.com/news/426846/charge-your-phone-and-your-car-from-afar/page/2/ It is early days to know whether it can be made to work, of course.
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Well, those are figures for actual charging including transformer losses and so on, so make of it what you will. This guy though reckons he has got 83%: http://drivingelectric.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/twenty-five-months-in-our-nissan-leaf.html OTOH this guy, 'comments', Right Lane Cruiser reckons that: 'With the provided "opportunity" EVSE hooked up to a 120V outlet I've found the efficiency to be 73.4% from wall to road. In other words, the ratio of energy used during my driving to energy pulled from the wall (measured with a Kill-A-Watt meter) to replenish the used charge is 73.4% with the charging cable hung in a single large and loose loop over the shelving in front of the car.' http://www.cleanmpg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=44945 so 80% would seem to be in the right ball park. Have you actual figures to from real world usage to back up your theoretical calculations? Its pretty easy to forget something!
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Why are you talking about wall to road? I'm talking about charger efficiency. That would be wall to battery. Wall to road (or wheels) includes both wall to battery and battery to road. I have the equipment to measure charging efficiency roughly. I just need to find a wire to clamp to measure the current into the battery. Maybe I'll look at that tonight. No wait, I looked at the internet and pics show there are no wires accessible there. So I'm stymied.
          Rotation
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          There's no way the charger in an EV is only 80% efficient. The power supply in my PC converts AC to DC at about 90% efficiency, and it has do to so over a wide range of currents (like at least a ratio of 40:1 high to low). The charger in a car can be optimized for 6kW or 3kW, which is only a spread of 2:1. My car charges at 6kW at 80% efficiency, that would be 1.2kW wasted as heat. That would be a lot of heat. It'd be like a hair dryer or a 120V space heater. It doesn't seem to get that hot.
        Giza Plateau
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        A good charger and agile battery can be better than 80%
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        I should have added that not having to lug around such hefty batteries would also of course provide efficiency gains. Dan's super lightweight car would actually make it into production! ;-)
      Spec
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can't imagine governments actually installing this kind of system in roads.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        More likely, the government would lease sections of road to charging companies that would do the installation. I don't know any local council that would turn down the chance to make money while avoiding the responsibility for road maintenance.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        "I can't imagine governments actually installing this kind of system in roads." You have a very limited imagination, methinks.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spec
        Too bad roads are monopolized by government. Think of what could be.
          ElectricAvenue
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Or what wouldn't be - there wouldn't be a road network if it hadn't been subsidized (and continues to be subsidized) by society at large. Take a look at private toll roads. e.g. http://www.407etr.com/tolls/rate-chart-2013.html (20 cents per km is 32 cents per mile) Do you really want to pay that much to travel? I wouldn't have a problem with more of a user pay system, but I think almost everyone else would. People are used to "freedom of movement", provided for at the taxpayers' expense.
      • 2 Years Ago
      "I didn't actually bother reading that far down in the nonsense posted, but the figures give a pretty fair idea of the arithmetical and mental abilities of the poster." I may be off on the math, most likely on the conservative side. I am no engineer. But this is not pie in the sky. Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi have published (http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/JDEnPolicyPt1.pdf and http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/DJEnPolicyPt2.pdf) on the feasibility of 100% replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy sources in the U.S. You can see a synopsis in the Scientific American article here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030&page=2 Their analysis uses multiple forms of renewable green energy, with the bulk split up between solar and wind. Their calculations of total land area needed to provide every calorie of energy for the U.S. at year 2030 comes to less than one percent of total area. Here is a map of the world showing total land area needed for generating all world energy needs purely with PV solar. The total land area here is 496,000 square kilometers - but that is for the entire planet.: http://landartgenerator.org/blagi/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/AreaRequired1000.jpg Here is the basic take home message: Solving AGW has been a knotty problem, I believe, only because the world has been having the wrong conversation about how to proceed. All the discussion is about how to incentivize the private sector, which is dominated by fossil fuel interests, to somehow embrace this technology. This has been, over the past thirty years, a near complete failure. But our energy future is best realized not through the private sector, but with public projects, built for the commons. We should build the public infrastructure we need with public monies, and then enjoy the virtually free energy as a nation.No need to "take on" the fossil fuel economy - simply ignore it and get on with securing our energy future with public works. Just like we did with hydroelectric, rural electrification, the interstate system, etc, etc.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        Numbers are important if you are making claims based on them. Stop making excuses and writing nonsense. Research what you are talking about first, instead of wasting other's time. I've read much of the usually equally innumerate stuff churned out by the renewables only brigade. They are currently claiming grid parity for wind and near parity for solar. That is good news for everybody, as that should make them strong advocates for abolishing all subsidies and mandates for renewables, as they would if cheaper take over the market. Of course, in reality they are nuts, but not that nuts, and know perfectly well that almost all activity in the sector would stop overnight with the withdrawal of mandates and subsidies. That is because they are picking and choosing what they are counting, and ignore for instance the massive costs to the grid of making up for the intermittency of renewables. BTW, I have advocated solar for around 40 years. I have however always had the strange notion that it works where it is sunny, and what is more sunny in about the time of year that it is needed. So it is fine in latitudes within 20 degrees of the equator, and in areas which are hot and don't have a cold winter. such as Arizona or SCal. Its expensive even there though, although to be sure the panel cost has dropped a lot. When solar is used as some ideologically driven panacea, primarily because those ideologues can't understand the small relative risks of nuclear, and fancy in their ignorance that a source which is not on-demand but intermittent and what is more close to non-existent at high latitudes in winter cannot possibly run and industrial society then great damage is done, especially to the poor paying for pipe dreams. If you can't get your head around numbers, what on earth makes you think your opinion about energy economics is worth anything at all, let alone worth sharing?
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          "If you can't get your head around numbers, what on earth makes you think your opinion about energy economics is worth anything at all, let alone worth sharing?" Because I'm not a pompous ass like you, Dave. You want to latch on a mistake in math, as if anybody here has done a correct calculation - feel free - but that makes you an ass. Decry the lack of numbers - yet you refuse to read the two proof sources from Phd's that give the numbers - feel free - but that makes you an ass. Talk about solar only being useful in Southwest U.S., while not realizing that was exactly what I said - feel free, but you know what that makes you? An ass. Then, when you pompously assert that the future of renewables relies on cost-effective nuclear - feel free - but that makes you as out of touch as you claim for me. And when you baldly assert that solar is too "expensive", without reckoning the true cost of mitigation , you know what that makes you? Yup. A clueless ass who is missing the point completely, but gets his jollies by labeling the posts of other people as "nonsense".
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Computah doth sayeth no. Ultimately the solution seems to be a nuclear reactor onboard. But until then inroad wireless seems too expensive. If all cars are electric I think we can get by with running big rigs on a synthetic fuel or biofuel that burns 'cleanly'. One thing that might be doable is overhead wires like trains. maybe a wheel coupling instead of a pantograph. 10000V might do the trick.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        Not all trains have overhead wires and pantographs. Some have third rails. This system is mirroring the third rail system many trains use.
          ElectricAvenue
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          Not really. The beauty of railways is that the rails are ground. There is no electrical ground at the road, so you have to have a "third and fourth" rail. The problem is that having a large voltage available across two strips at ground level is just not practical, as it is far too easy for something bad to happen (electrocution, or shorting out). So, providing power from the ground requires some sort of active system so that the supply is energized only for the portion covered by the vehicle. They have done this with light rail systems through historic downtowns with, I gather, marginal success. It's just not as easy to electrify roads.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Giza Plateau
        Why do you say in-road charging is "too expensive"? It's a very elegant solution to our transportation goals. Besides,helping to drastically lower the various expenses accrued to large, heavy, expensive, batteries, it brings simplicity to the table. The cost of business as usual with regards to CO2 emissions, ie, the cost of responding to AGW disasters, is calculated to be $1240 trillion dollars world-wide by year 2100 alone. Installing in-road charging to all our highways would be an extremely wise investment almost regardless of cost, because it could transition us to a 100% electric fleet almost overnight. In-road charging would not be expensive - it would be a bargain.
          ElectricAvenue
          • 2 Years Ago
          What would be a bargain would be to use electric trains instead. They are far more energy efficient, and the technology has been proven over many decades. Reducing truck traffic would also drastically reduce the cost of road maintenance. The only reason there isn't more intermodal traffic currently is that the economic incentives are warped. Trucks do not pay for the damage they do to the roads, whereas railways not only have to provide their own right of ways (instead of having society at large pay for them), they even have to pay property taxes to boot!
      • 2 Years Ago
      In-road inductive charging is the answer to our transportation transition to all renewable energy. If we had a new National Renewable Energy Utility, where the Federal government commissioned large-scale solar and wind infrastructure, we could have unlimited energy generated for the cost of sunlight and wind - which is zero - to propel our cars and trucks. If, as a nation, we directed five years of consumer spending for fossil fuels into a Federal project to construct huge renewable energy infrastructure projects, we could pay for all the infrastructure we need to replace every drop of fossil fuel-derived energy used in the United States, and upgrade to a smart grid, and install in-road inductive charging. People don't realize just how much money we keep shelling out for fossil fuels - it's several trillions of dollars over a span of just a few years. A trillion dollars is a titanic amount of money when spent wisely for the common good. For example - if we erected a single giant solar PV project in the American southwest large enough to replace all the energy from all fossil fuels used in the U.S., it would take approximately 460 billion solar panels. The wholesale price for all those panels at last years prices - $1.00 per panel. Add $540 billion to that for installation and smart grid upgrade. We are now generating 100% of our nation's energy needs with solar PV for less than what we spend each year for fossil fuels. This green electricity should be given away for free. We could also pay every American home and business to retrofit to 100% electrical heating, cooling, cooking, industrial processes and that would represent only years . say, two and three of our five year fossil fuel expenditures. Add another year s worth of fossil fuel purchases, and we could pay to have one free Nissan Leaf put in every driveway. Trillions would go onto our national debt, yes. But imagine yourself as a taxpayer - you now have zero expenses for transportation, home heating, cooling, electric; business owners with zero expenses for energy. Do you think you would mind paying a fraction of your new reduced overhead savings toward paying off that national debt? Of course not! Voila - we have just saved the planet, put money in our own pockets, and didn't have to regulate the oil companies at all. All we need is a new National Renewable Energy Utility.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ gingerbaker "460 billion solar panels." Now you are possibly talking about a different sort of solar panel, but if the average solar panel is 1.8 square metres, that's 460 billion x 1.8 = 828 billion m2 or 828 million km2 . Now the since the continental US is only 416,522.5 km2 , where will you put the rest ? You may have eliminated fossil fuels from the US, but you also seem to have eliminated the US ! Where does your power come from at night ?
          DaveMart
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          828,000 square kilometres is still a pretty sizeable chunk of real estate. Its around a tenth of the land area of the lower 48 states. Of course, you might want to space the panels out a bit, too! That takes space. I didn't actually bother reading that far down in the nonsense posted, but the figures give a pretty fair idea of the arithmetical and mental abilities of the poster.
          ElectricAvenue
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          Marcopolo: check your arithmetic. One square km is 1000 m * 1000 m = 1 million square metres. You're out by a factor of 1000.
          Marco Polo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Marcopolo
          @ ElectricAvenue Thank you for the correction, my error, of course the correct figure is 828,000 ! However, as Dave Mart rightly points out, if you deduct rivers, lakes, mountains, national parks, forests, canyons, installation access, maintenance access, roads etc, even 828, 000 k2 doesn't leave a lot of room for anything else ! Nor would even this vast array of power generate sufficient usable energy to replace all energy generation requirements of the US. The point is, that although Solar power is a valuable, and improving energy source, it's not really cheap, and only supplements existing power generation. Another alarming statistic is the high rate of failure from poor quality, defective solar panels (Mostly sourced from the PRC). These wild claims, capture do capture public imagination, but also raise false expectations.
        Nick Kordich
        • 2 Years Ago
        It seems you're confusing watts and panels. The wholesale price is approximately $1/watt, or about $200 for a 200W solar panel. Dumping and subsidies make it hard to judge, but that's in the ballpark. As a result, we can divide Marco Polo's area estimate by another 200, but trying to scale up from a single panel obviously adds a risk of confusion - let's go with an actual solar facility, since we have those to work from. Copper Mountain generates 120GWh/year and covers 2 square kilometers. Cost is usually put as $141 million, but that is after tax credits so let's say $200 million to go evenly into the suggested trillion. If you built 5,000 such plants (leaving aside the actual requirements of production, just looking at area and cost), you're looking at about 10,000km^2, or between the size of Death Valley and Jamaica, or a little under a tenth the size of the Mojave Desert. Power generation would be 600TW/h a year. The US produces 4,200 TW/h a year, so $1 trillion invested in solar would generate about a fifth of the electricity generated by fossil fuels. That doesn't touch what is consumed in forms other than electricity, such as gasoline and diesel - electricity accounts for about one-sixth of our energy usage. As a result, even setting aside the issue of storage/buffering/restructuring the grid, the effects of borrowing/diverting $1 trillion, and the non-monetary resources used in creating several billion solar panels, a trillion dollars would bring you no more than 1/30th of the way to 100% solar nirvana.
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Nick Kordich
          @ Nick Kordich I was deliberately using gingerbaker's own terms so that he could appreciate the scale of his misconception. In fact, although Solar power does provide some valuable power generation, as a contributor to the power grid of an industrial society, its importance is fantastically over estimated. The consequences of over investment, and massive problem of over-reliance on such unreliable power generation are becoming apparent in Germany and Spain.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        Yeah, wind and solar are free, if you don't count what they cost to build and maintain, and don't count the cost of supplying a huge amount of fossil fuel back up to keep the grid running when they are not available. Just about anything is free if you ignore what it costs.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Ignoring costs? Half of what I wrote is about costs. The point is, unlike fossil fuels, once the infrastructure is paid for, there are essentially no further costs. Between wind and solar, there will be no further need for fossil fuel backup.
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          @ Go Zop ! Your points are well made. In the early day refineries used to tip 'gasoline into the rivers, and set it alight ! In 1978, the major western oil producers had a technical breakthrough. Today, 98.9 % pf oil can be used for industrial non-energy products. Fuel products have become the least profitable, most capital intensive, source of revenue for oil companies.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Not to mention the fact that if it were not for "oil", we would not have fuel efficient cars in the first place, since a significant part of their components are petroleum based (e.g. plastics). A world without petroleum products would set us back a couple hundred years in countless technologies and advancements, including medical, computers, aviation, agriculture, food processing and storage products, etc., etc., etc. We cannot forget that in the early days before the gasoline engine was invented, the stuff we now use in our (ice) automobiles was, back then, the refinery's version of nuclear waste that was piling up fast. One way of disposal was to just burn in. The gasoline engine saved the day. The stuff was taken off their hands and they got paid for someone else to take their garbage away. Now, what does anyone suppose would happen if there was no one to buy that waste from the refineries because there were no more gasoline engines in which to burn it?
      dewd7
      • 2 Years Ago
      Modern train sets, in the left hand train lane, operators with Xbox controllers. That would be an unexpected improvement on the 60's and 70's slot cars, which are missed around here. Perhaps a section dedicated to the next Forza? A track with multiple lanes. But racing in the streets should perhaps be frowned upon.
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