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Detroit tries out wireless charging for EVs, cars to draw power from streets as they drive

In a groundbreaking move, crews have completed installing what is being hailed as the nation’s inaugural wireless-charging public roadway for electric vehicles beneath a street just west of downtown Detroit.

The innovative system utilizes copper inductive charging coils, allowing vehicles equipped with corresponding receivers to charge their batteries seamlessly while driving, idling, or parking directly above these coils.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has earmarked a quarter-mile stretch along 14th Street for testing and refining this cutting-edge technology before making it accessible to the public within the next few years.

Demonstrations occurred Wednesday at the Michigan Central Innovation District, a focal point for advancing technologies and programs addressing mobility barriers. This district is also where Ford Motor Co. is actively restoring the historic Michigan Central train station to facilitate the development of self-driving vehicles.

Electron, an Israel-based developer specializing in wireless charging solutions for electric vehicles, is the brainchild behind this technology. With existing contracts for similar roadways in Israel, Sweden, Italy, and Germany, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the Michigan pilot initiative in 2021.

Stefan Tongur, Electreon’s Vice President of Business Development, emphasized the potential of wireless charging in revolutionizing electric vehicle adoption, mitigating issues such as limited range, grid constraints, and battery size and costs. Tongue stated, “This project paves the way for a zero-emission mobility future, where EVs are the norm, not the exception.”

As a vehicle with a receiver approaches the charging segments, the coils beneath the road generate electricity through a magnetic field, effectively charging the vehicle’s battery. Notably, the coils are designed to activate solely when a vehicle with a receiver passes over them.

Tongue reassured reporters that the wireless-charging roadway is safe for pedestrians, motorists, and animals.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Electron have committed to a five-year partnership to develop the electric road system further. The department is anticipated to seek bids for reconstructing a portion of the bustling Michigan Avenue, where inductive charging will also be implemented.

With the rising popularity of electric vehicles in the United States, the Biden administration has incorporated plans for half a million EV charging stations as a cornerstone of its infrastructure goals.

Officials believe installing the wireless-charging roadway positions Michigan and Detroit at the forefront of electric vehicle technology. Michigan DOT Director Bradley C. Wieferich expressed the state’s commitment to staying ahead of the curve and leading in electric vehicle advancements.

Stefan Tongur mentioned that decisions have yet to be finalized regarding revenue models in Michigan, emphasizing the intelligence of the technology in recognizing verified and authentic users who can seamlessly access charging services.

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