Electric Avenue – soon a reality
ELECTRIC ROADS TO BE A REALITY: It seems as though Volvo has been inspired by trams for its electric road project. Image: Volvo
Earlier in 2013 we reported on Tesla tackling the issue of electric-vehicle range. The US electric automaker said it would create a charging network in the US and Canada making cross-continental travel by electric car feasible in 2014.
It hopes to grow the number of charging stations it runs from eight to 100.
TESTING ELECTRIC ROADS
The trouble with recharging stations is that a great deal of energy needs to be distributed to ensure EVs are supplied with electricity when needed. This could put great strain on a nation's power supply.
Volvo’s innovations in EV charging could mean losing the dependency on batteries as it tests “electric roads”.
Mats Alaküla, Volvo Group’s electric vehicle expert, said: “In city traffic, there are currently various solutions and we are researching many others. We have field tests in progress where our plug-in buses are equipped with a battery that can be charged quickly when the buses are at bus stops.”
CONTINUOUS POWER SUPPLY
For long-distance trucks and buses, this will not work as they stop infrequently and would need so many batteries that there would be no room for any loads or passengers.
The method currently being developed and tested by the Swedish automaker involves two power lines built into the surface of the road. A current collector in contact with the power lines is installed in vehicles.
Alaküla explains: “With this method, electric vehicles could be continuously supplied with power without carrying large batteries. The power line will be built in sections and one section is only live as the truck passes.”
In 2012, Volvo built a 400m track at its testing facility in Hallered, Sweden to test its electric road project.
'WE MUST INVEST NOW'
Richard Sebestyen, Volvo Group Trucks Technology project manager, said: “We are currently testing how to connect the electricity from the road to the truck. The electricity flows into a water-cooled heating element, with similar power requirement as an electricity-driven truck.”
A lot of research still remains before the project becomes a reality. According to Volvo: “The research involves the continued technical development of the current collector, electric motor and the control systems required. It also involves road construction, road maintenance, electricity supply along the roads and various payment models.”
Alaküla said: “A lot of years remain before this is on our roads but, if we are to succeed in creating sustainable transport systems, we must invest significantly in research now.
“I am convinced that we will find a cost-efficient way to supply electricity to vehicles in long-distance traffic and we have already come a long way in our research.”