Talk of wireless charging roads for electric vehicles (EVs) has been underway for the past several years, but the first U.S. project to feature the technology has now been completed. The wireless charging road is set to continue construction through the end of the year, with testing set to follow early next year.
After the state of Michigan pledged in 2021 to complete a wireless charging road by this year, Israeli startup Electreon has finished installing the EV charging road, according to a press release shared by the company last week. While it isn’t yet open to the public, the city plans to open the road to the public in the next few years after a testing period.
Electreon says it plans to begin extensive testing of the inductive charging road in early 2024, using a Ford E-Transit equipped with its proprietary receiver.
“For more than a century, Detroit has been known around the world as the leader in transportation innovation,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in the release. “We are the birthplace of the auto industry, and the home of the first mile of concrete road and the first three-way traffic signal. Today, thanks to Gov. Whitmer and our partners at Michigan Central and Electreon, we can add the nation’s first wireless charging public roadway to that list of innovations.”
The road is located in the former Book Depository Building in the Michigan Central district, on a quarter-mile stretch of Detroit’s 14th Street. The tests will focus on the road’s charging efficiency and will be used to evaluate the EV charging road’s potential for long-term public transportation use.
“If this was easy, it would have already been done,” said Todd Bettison, Detroit deputy mayor, at a recent event (via Automotive News). “We’re in competition across the world … in electrification. This will be our own proving ground in the city of Detroit.”
The concept of wireless EV charging is expected to be particularly useful for vehicles using repetitive routes, such as buses, taxis, and freight vehicles, though they’re also expected to be available to passenger vehicles in the future.
The wireless EV charging technology works through electromagnetic induction using embedded copper coils within the pavement. These coils create a magnetic field that the Electron receiver can garner energy from, then the receiver transfers that energy to an EV’s battery and motors.
The project was partly funded by a $1.9 million investment from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). It also comes alongside an additional goal for the state to build a 40-mile “connected corridor” for EVs and self-driving vehicles, running from Detroit to Ann Arbor.
Electreon was initially founded in 2013, and the company currently has 18 different wireless EV charging roads across Europe and elsewhere. The projects wireless charging projects are actively happening in Sweden, Norway, Italy, Israel and a handful of other countries on the continent.
The road’s completion comes amidst debate about whether wireless EV charging will be a practical solution over the long term. Some have expressed that it may simply be more affordable for taxpayer money to go toward the expansion of regular EV chargers, while others have aired concerns around subjects like maintenance and efficiency of the roads.