Most will agree that a major hurdle to the mass adoption of all-electric vehicles is the hassle and speed (or lack thereof) in charging the things. First you gotta find a station, then find another one after discovering the first one’s broken, and finally loiter in a dingy Burger King while waiting for your vehicle to hoover up enough electrons to get you home.
Help is on the horizon. Stellantis has teamed up with a number of other companies in Europe to build the fantastically named Arena del Futuro, a 0.6-mile test track whose ribbon of tarmac is capable of dynamic induction to charge the batteries of electric vehicles as they drive along.
That’s surely one of the EV holy grails, right? Inductively charging up batteries as the vehicle makes its way down the highway would be a giant leap towards putting range anxiety to bed for good. Even if the system only replenished a fraction of electricity being consumed while driving, it’d certainly boost the total range and reduce the amount of time spent at roadside chargers on the bookends of one’s journey.
It’s a lot more complicated than slapping a few circuits into the pavement, of course. The road surface is optimized (Stellantis and their partners do not go into detail) to make it more durable without altering the efficiency and effectiveness of the inductive charge, while the so-called ‘wired lanes’ apparently have an innovative – and likely proprietary – system of turns installed under the tarmac. On the vehicle side, it is said technology can be adapted to a wide range of vehicles once they are equipped with a special receiver, a piece of tech which transfers the energy coming from the road infrastructure to the battery.
How all this would react to rain, snow, or the large patch of rubber laid down by the neighbor’s Hellcat during a smoky burnout remains unclear. Nevertheless, it’s a significant development in the continued adoption of electric vehicles.
“This is a cutting-edge solution to provide a concrete answer to the issues of range and charging, both of which customers are concerned about,” said Anne-Lise Richard, Head of the Global e-Mobility Business Unit at Stellantis. “Charging vehicles while they are on the move provides clear advantages in terms of charging times and the size of their batteries.”
The latter is an excellent point, given how much battery capacity is required to satisfy the range requirements (perceived or real) of most customers. It’s said the battery pack in an F-150 Lightning weighs about 1,800 pounds, for example, while the one in a Tesla Model S bends the earth by roughly 1,200 pounds. Being able to charge up on the move could potentially permit carmakers to reduce the size of these behemoths, a move which would reduce weight and – theoretically – increase range even more since the battery doesn’t have to power a vehicle that weighs more than the sun.
Testing continues, with the team electing to deploy a Fiat 500 and Iveco E-Way bus for the task.[Image: Stellantis]
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