The electric car is picking up speed as consumers and governments around the world embrace these greener, cleaner high-tech vehicles. Battery technology has evolved to the point where the top-performing EVs can operate for 110 to 150 miles on a single charge — a very respectable range for a commuter. But for someone who is traveling an extended distance, finding a place to recharge remains a challenge in many places.
A countrywide EV charging infrastructure is slowly rolling out in commercial and public places. Drivers in many places can now charge their car while they are getting groceries or get a quick charge at a gas station. (How quick? The world’s fastest charger gives drivers 120 miles worth of energy in just 8 minutes.) In Sweden, however, drivers need only change their route.
A new electrified stretch of road outside of Stockholm’s Arlanda airport is specially outfitted with a charging rail that runs 1.2 miles and provides vehicles with a power boost. Energy is transferred from the rail to the vehicle via a movable arm that attaches to the bottom of a vehicle. The road is powered only when a vehicle is charging on it. When the vehicle stops, the arm and current disconnects. The system calculates the vehicle’s energy consumption, and the electricity cost is debited per vehicle and user. It’s also safe for any people or animals that might cross.
Hans Säll, chief executive of the eRoadArlanda consortium behind the project, said, “There is no electricity on the surface. There are two tracks, just like an outlet in the wall. Five or six centimeters down is where the electricity is. 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.”
The road is the first in the world like it, and a test project to see how feasible the system would be for broader use in the country. Right now, the primary user is an 18-ton PostNord truck that delivers cargo to and from the airport. If the project is deemed a success, Säll envisions the system becoming a part of more of Sweden’s roads as the country works to meet its target of achieving independence from fossil fuel by 2030.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, a more conventional charging infrastructure is taking shape.