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Wireless-Charging Road Trial Sets Out to Transform Trucking

Photo Courtesy Exro

(Bloomberg) —

Australia faces unique challenges in electrifying its heavy-vehicle fleet because of its vast geography. A futuristic new technology may be a solution: roads that can wirelessly charge electric trucks as they drive.

In an Australia-first trial, a research group from Melbourne’s Swinburne University will embed dynamic wireless charging technology into a 1.5-kilometer (0.93-mile) stretch of road as part of a broader bid to accelerate lagging EV uptake in the country. The A$8.2 million ($5.4 million) initiative has been partially funded by an A$3 million government grant.

“We’re setting the stage for a transformation in the heavy vehicle industry,” said project lead Medhi Seyedmahmoudian, a professor of new-energy technology research at Swinburne. The project’s partners include German engineering giant Siemens AG, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Australian electric-truck manufacturer Sea Electric.

Similar trials already have delivered promising results in other countries. Following a successful 2019 trial of a wirelessly charging road, Sweden is hoping to build the world’s first permanent electric motorway by 2025. In a project in Italy dubbed Arena of the Future, an e-bus drove for three days straight without losing power on a wireless-charging road.

If successful, the Swinburne project could have big payoffs.

“Electrifying heavy vehicles could save Australia A$325 billion by 2050, while contributing to a greener, safer and more efficient transport sector,” Seyedmahmoudian said.

The proposed technology works with two coils: one embedded under the road, and one attached to the vehicle. It can be retrofitted to existing electric vehicles.

The ability to charge on the go would be a game changer for electric heavy vehicles in Australia, allowing them to traverse the long distances between major cities and sparsely populated regional areas.

For instance, the journey between the state capitals of Adelaide and Perth is around 2,700 kilometers, including the world’s longest stretch of straight road across the arid Nullarbor Plain — longer than driving from New York to Dallas. Even the trip between Brisbane and Melbourne on the heavily populated east coast is around 1,800 kilometers, which would necessitate several stops to recharge.

Read more: Wireless Charging for Electric Cars Is Inching Closer to Reality

Australia is heavily reliant on the trucking industry. Some 241.8 billion tons of freight was moved by road in the 12 months through June 2023, according to the National Freight Data Hub. Road freight volume is forecast to grow 77% between 2020 and 2050, far outstripping the 6% increase expected for rail freight.

And reducing pollution from trucks is key to meeting the government’s 2030 emissions goals. Road vehicles made up 84% of full fuel cycle greenhouse gas emissions from all domestic transport modes in 2022–23, compared to 9% from aviation.

Crucially, the technology also could allow manufactures to shrink the size of EV batteries, substantially lowering the cost of vehicles. “This is really significant for heavy-duty vehicles,” Seyedmahmoudian said.

His team also is focused on finding ways to seamlessly integrate EVs with the grid.

“The only way we can adapt our communities for these new technologies is to revolutionize our entire electrical systems,” he said, cautioning that a steep uptake of EVs could overload existing energy systems.

Wireless charging technology could enable a more flexible and efficient distribution of energy, as vehicles fitted with the coil can discharge energy back to the grid, or to each other, Seyedmahmoudian said.

To contact the author of this story:
Emma Partis in Sydney at

© 2024 Bloomberg L.P.


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