New EV charging techniques are on the move

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Energy Fairness has written many times about our support for adopting electric vehicles (EVs) while maintaining that such adoption will require substantial infrastructure investment. Concerns about battery life and a lack of charging stations have held back large scale EV adoption. But, what if the road could charge your EV while you drive? 

Several automotive, utility, and infrastructure companies are testing a new technology that would do just that. The process, called dynamic charging, involves under-road pads that wirelessly transmit electricity to receivers mounted either underneath vehicles or on overhead wires. In France, Renault SA has joined with Electricite de France SA to test dynamic charging on Paris’s roads. A similar experiment is taking place in Sweden. Trucking giant Scania AB has also developed a truck that can be charged overhead. 

“Range anxiety, running out of charge before reaching your destination, is one of the biggest consumer hurdles for EV adoption,” said Ram Chandrasekaran, principal analyst at energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.

The companies involved in the project hope that advancing new charging technologies will help to change attitudes toward EVs. Renault estimates that it could begin to incorporate dynamic charging into its vehicles by the end of the decade. While many see dynamic charging as a complement to regular EV charging and not a replacement, it could go a long way toward reducing range anxiety for consumers. 

“Charging should not be considered a pain and should not act as a brake on electric vehicle use and deployment,” said Xavier Serrier, who is leading Renault’s charging project. “Technically speaking, it works,” he said of the technology.

Unfortunately, just because something technically works doesn’t mean it’s financially feasible. Why? Because the economics of dynamic charging just doesn’t work yet. Scania estimates it will cost as much as $2.5 million to electrify a kilometer (0.62 miles) of a highway and interconnect it with the power grid. Advocates of dynamic charging argue that public and private can eventually reduce costs by deploying at scale. When the technology finally rolls out, the massive infrastructure costs will limit its deployment to large metropolitan areas and key transportation routes.

Dynamic charging is still several years away from its consumer debut, but some of the world’s largest economies, like the U.K. and California, have pledged to stop selling fossil fuel-powered vehicles by the start of the next decade. Globally, we will need new innovative EV charging techniques to meet these deadlines. Advancements such as dynamic charging could make all the difference for the widespread adoption of EV’s.  Let’s make it happen.