Backed by a $120,000 grant courtesy of Israel’s Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, ElectRoad – a company dedicated to the widespread implementation electric bus transportation – has earned the chance to showcase its “inductive-charging” technology on the streets of Tel Aviv in 2018. Using inverters and strategically placed copper plates, ElectRoad’s “under-the-pavement” technology keeps electric buses running without needing to stop at a local charging station.
Keeping a fleet of 3-ton busses fully charged during their travels is no simple task. With a steady power supply coming from inverters installed on the side of the road to copper plates underneath the road, a wirelessly charged street is born. The final energy transfer occurs when the embedded copper plates interact with similar copper plates installed underneath the ElectRoad bus. The end result: a fully sustainable transit system producing zero fossil fuel emissions.
“We plan to start with buses, of course, but we believe in revolutionizing the entirety of transportation,” Oren Ezer, chief executive and co-founder of ElectRoad said in a recent interview with Scientific American. “You only need to pave for the infrastructure one time, and that’s it. You can use it for all kinds of vehicles, so that’s a big advantage.”
Wireless Charging Obstacles
Passing the first road test provided for a much-needed stamp of approval from the Ministry of Transport. With plans to test the inductive charging technology on a half-mile route in Tel Aviv in 2018, ElectRoad is ready to showcase its vision on the world stage. “Tel Aviv is the biggest city (in Israel), like New York on a small scale,” Shay Soffer, chief scientist at the Ministry said. “If it will work in Tel Aviv, it will work anywhere. I think in 10 years you’ll see a lot of solutions like ElectRoad in our transportation.”
With that being said, there is a growing list of obstacles that may stand in the way of making ElectRoad “the road of the future.” For one, even though the company claims it can outfit a kilometer stretch of road in one evening, it has yet to test this in any major city. Secondly, recent advances in battery technology, whether it’s capacity or a reduction in costs, may eliminate the need for “rechargeable solutions.” Dustin Grace, Director of the battery company Proterra told Scientific American, “What these auto manufacturers are finding when they’re getting into the $100-to-$200-per-kilowatt-hour-range is these vehicles are really on parity with other vehicles.”
The benefits are two-fold. Since the technology produces power, the buses could actually feed the inverters harnessing the energy for later use. Secondly, the buses have regenerative braking capabilities which produce even more energy. So the entire system is 100% sustainable.
Each bus comes equipped with a small battery used only 6% of the time the vehicle is running. With a bus needing a pretty significant boost of energy to accelerate from a stationary position, the onboard battery will be activated. It will also provide much-needed power while traveling over roads not armed with inductive charging technology. ElectRaod’s buses can travel off the charging road for approximately three miles.
From South Korea to the European Union, inductive charging technology is starting to find its way inside roads across the globe. If things go smoothly during the Tel Aviv test in 2018, ElectRoad will have an opportunity to pave the path between the city of Eilat and the Ramon International Airport.