Author Green Supply Chain News
While many countries are setting timetables for moving away from new cars using gasoline or diesel, and there is much interest in electric trucks on the part of shippers looking for green shipping alternatives, a stubborn problem remains: the batteries in today’s e-vehicles have a very limited range, and charging stations are far from ubiquitous and take a long time to repower a car or truck.
One hope is that battery and charging technology will advance soon enough to allow greater miles per charge and to enable much more rapid charging. But while engineers are hard at work on those issues, how and when they will be solved in a way that meets market needs is speculative at best.
The Green-leaning country of Sweden has what it thinks is a better approach.
As reported recently in the UK’s Daily Mail, Sweden has built the first stretch of electrified road that allows cars to charge themselves as they drive along it in what the government says will eventually be the electrification of all of the country’s highways.
The first stretch road that has been electrified runs for about two kilometers between Stockholm Airport and a logistics park. That’s just a drop in the bucket from the 20,000 kilometers of Sweden’s main highways, but the country says it is committed to electrifying all of it.
With the system, electric energy is transferred from two rail tracks that are embedded in the road connected to the car through an arm attached to the bottom of the vehicle, similar to an electric tram or train.
The arm automatically disconnects when the car changes lanes and then reconnects to a different electrified line.
The energy consumption of each car is monitored and used to bill drivers for how much energy they use. Because the system is charging a vehicle’s batteries as it drives, those batteries can be smaller and cheaper because they should not have to travel far without charging.
In this area, Sweden has some geographic advantages, as while there are some 500,000 kilometers of total roadway in the country, cars rarely have to travel more than 45 kilometers to reach a major highway, such that only those roads need to be electrified.
The Daily Mail quotes Hans Sall, CEO of a company called eRoadArlanda which built the road, said existing vehicles and highways could be modified to use the system.
And the technology is safe, Sall says.
“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,” he said. “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.”