Friday, June 01, 2018 by David Williams
Cars are a fairly recent human invention. As a matter of fact, they have only been around for a little over a hundred years. With that said, the world has had time to adapt to them, building roads and all kinds of infrastructure to accommodate them and their presence in people’s lives.
Now, the same is about to happen to electric cars, as companies and governments all over the world are beginning to sway in their favor, partly due to the global effort to minimize and eventually cease the incessant use of fossil fuels. Sweden, in particular, wants to be at the forefront of the electric vehicle movement, and as such, the country has opened the world’s first road that can charge electric vehicles while they are being driven right over it.
This electrified road starts at the Stockholm Arlanda airport and goes all the way to a logistics site that’s located right outside the capital city. It spans about 1.2 miles (around 2 kilometers) in length and could be used as the basis for a future national map that will benefit all electric vehicle users in the country. The technology that has made its existence possible was created by the eRoadArlanda consortium, which aims for it to solve the various problems involved in keeping electric vehicles charged while in use, as well as reduce the prices of electric vehicle batteries.
The way that the electric road works is quite simple, and it is said to be not that different from a Scalextric track. Energy from the road gets transferred from two tracks of rail that can be found embedded on the road itself, and the energy transfer is facilitated by a movable arm that is attached to the bottom of electric vehicles. In case a vehicle goes too fast and ends up overtaking it, the arm will simply get disconnected.
Although the country of Sweden has a total of about half a million kilometers of roadways on it, only 20,000 kilometers are highways. But at the current rate of electric vehicle adoption, that’s practically all that’s needed for this kind of technology to be perfect. (Related: Electric vehicles to become more affordable than gas-guzzling counterparts in just 7 years: Report.)
According to Hans Säll, the chief executive of eRoadArlanda, they already have a plan that takes the total amount of highway roads in Sweden into account. “If we electrify 20,000 kilometers of highways that will definitely be enough,” he said. “The distance between two highways is never more than 45 kilometers and electric cards can already travel that distance without needing to be recharged. Some believe it would be enough to electrify 5,000 kilometers.”
What’s interesting about this electric road implementation is that it only costs €1 million (around $1.19 million) per kilometer. That might seem like a lot, but the construction of an urban tram line would be much more expensive – around 50 times more, to be exact. So in the end, it’s a much more practical and economical alternative.
It’s also completely safe for use. Säll said that there is no electricity on the surface of the electrified road. “There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is,” he explained. “But if you flood the road with salt water then we have found that the electricity level at the surface is just one volt. You could walk on it barefoot.”
This move will surely help Sweden reach its goals regarding fossil fuel use right on schedule. And if it proves successful in this endeavor, it’s hard to imagine why other countries wouldn’t follow its example.
Learn more about the electric vehicle takeover in Power.news.