New Technology Could Charge Your EV as You Drive

The “dynamic charging” system may be embedded in the road or hang overhead.

January 19, 2021

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The desire to own an electric vehicle has long been impeded by apprehensions about the life of the battery, but now several companies are testing technology that may one day allow EVs to charge while on the move, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The process is known as “dynamic charging,” and it involves under-road pads that wirelessly transmit electricity to receivers mounted underneath the EV. Some larger vehicles could charge via overhead wires like those used by trams.

In France, Renault SA has teamed up with Electricite de France SA to test dynamic charging on the streets of Paris. In Sweden, Scania AB has developed a truck that can be charged overhead and is now ready for mass production. And a startup will soon test wirelessly charged busses in Tel Aviv.

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

However, dynamic charging remains questionable, and even the companies involved say they need to find ways to reduce the cost of connecting roads to the grid to make the technology economically viable. The investment in infrastructure would be huge, and they acknowledge that rollouts would likely be limited to cities and major transportation routes.

The effort to charge cars while they travel—often seen as a complement rather than a rival to regular EV charging—comes as governments and companies worldwide work to cut dependence on fossil fuels. Major economies have pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050 and are encouraging EV adoption.

When it comes to decarbonizing, the transportation industry lags behind, according to the International Energy Agency. Of all cars sold globally in 2019, only 2.5% were electric, while a record 42% were sport-utility vehicles with heavy gas usage.

“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 Wood Mackenzie, an energy consulting firm.

Renault estimates that dynamic charging could be incorporated in its vehicles by the end of the decade and that the technology could allow it to use small, cheaper batteries. In a 2017 research test, Renault charged a small van at 60 miles an hour, which led the European Union to include the Renault program in a group of charging projects it is funding.

Now, Renault is preparing to test the technology in freeway and city conditions in Versailles and Paris. The company is working with civil engineer Colas Group, which will focus on roads, and EDF-subsidiary Enedis, which will look at connecting streets to the grid and how to make money from consumers.

In Israel, Electreon Wireless Ltd. is working with local bus operators on a dynamic charging pilot program that will shuttle university students around Tel Aviv. The project is funded by the company and the Israeli government.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen AG’s Scania is reviving an old technology to charge trucks by using pantographs, the roof-mounted connection to overhead wires common to municipal trams.

The Fuels Institute has prepared an evaluation of the electric vehicle market from the consumer perspective, including total cost of ownership, recharging infrastructure requirements, anticipated consumer recharging behavior, and the relationship of EVs to competing technology in terms of consumer adoption. Visit “Electric Vehicle Adoption: Focus on Charging .”