UK motorway to charge electric cars on the move

14 April 2014
David Crawford
Mobile version
Share |
An electric bus in Germany uses an inductive fast charging system
An electric bus in Germany uses an inductive fast charging system

The Highways Agency intends to equip an English motorway to test wireless charging of moving electric cars.

A spokesperson has confirmed an off-the-cuff reference, by an official at an ITS(UK) EV working group meeting, to plan for the UK’s first on-road trial of dynamic as opposed to static car charging.

This will mark a step change in EV charging activity that has focused mainly on electric buses until now. A newcomer in this sector is Transport Scotland, which, working with Scottish Enterprise and bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, plans to trial a ‘semi-dynamic’ system using a hybrid-electric vehicle in Glasgow this summer.

Claimed benefits of on-the-road charging – using electromagnetic fields generated by subsurface modules – include extended range and smaller batteries. US research at North Carolina State University (NCSU) suggests that car ranges could increase from around 100km to nearly 500km.

The HA says its initiative is supporting the government’s low-carbon policy by “promoting the advantages of ultra-low-emission vehicles”. At the same time, UK transport consultancy TRL has won a tranche of the €9m European Commission (EC) co-funded FABRIC programme set up to assess technological aspects of dynamic charging.

The Highways Agency (HA) has yet to give details of the trial site or dates. But it has issued criteria for system adoption, including a lifecycle comparable to that of asphalt (typically around 16 years), cost-effective maintenance, resistance to vibration and weather, and efficient charge collection at high speeds.

UK static inductive charging experience to date involves test cars parking at existing plug-in stations in London and an electric bus service launched in January 2014 in Milton Keynes, where vehicles top up their overnight charge during drivers’ rest breaks. Managing this five-year demonstration is the eFleet Integrated Service joint venture between Mitsui Europe and consulting engineers Arup.

Arup helped create a wireless power transfer system branded HALO in Auckland, New Zealand in 2010. US wireless technology developer Qualcomm, which bought HALO in 2011, is running the London static car trial and planning a dynamic test track in Auckland.

For operational experience, the HA can look to Asia, where the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is running two online electric vehicle (OLEV) buses on a 12km continuous charging route in the city of Gumi. It claims 85 per cent maximum efficiency in power transfer.

The HA will also be monitoring the semi-dynamic charging trial highlighted by Transport Scotland chief executive David Middleton at a Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation conference in March 2014. A halfway house between static and dynamic technologies, it will enable a hybrid bus to pick up charge from a series of modules installed under the road surface at strategic points along the route so it can run for long periods in fully electric mode.

A Transport Scotland spokesman explains that the approach “is likely to cause less disruption than, for example, installing dynamic charging along the length of a road”.

More recently, TRL announced that it is taking part in another European project, ZeEUS, to investigate zero emission urban bus systems using different technologies as part of regular services in eight cities, including London and Glasgow. The electric buses deployed at both these UK demonstrator sites will use wireless ‘opportunistic’ charging, which will allow them to complete routes that would otherwise be too demanding for regular electric buses.

A similar technique is being used in Braunschweig, Germany, where a bus fitted with Bombardier Primove fast-charge technology went into passenger service on 27 March.

Transport authorities can also learn from the 2010-2013 Continuous Electric Drive (CED) project, run by the Flanders DRIVE automotive research centre. This segregated a 500m stretch of the Belgian N769 highway as a temporary test track with both asphalt and concrete surfaces. It concludes that dynamic charging is “very feasible” in terms of both road construction and system design – the latter performing comparably with static charging. It also declares the system electrically safe.

A central issue for road operators is the extent of the road surface impacted by dynamic on-road charging – 10 per cent according to NCSU’s modelling, 5-15 per cent in KAIST’s experience. An alternative concept triallled by UK start-up Ampium envisages replacing trenching by less intrusive saw cutting to accommodate charging units powered from off-road sources.

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1605

"We visit Barcelona, one of the smartest cities in the world, to find out what makes it so special. What does it look like and what is the future?"

E&T jobs

  • Senior Development Engineer, Electronics

    Premium job

    Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation
    • Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire
    • Competitive

    We are innovative, robust and fast growing business, whose main focus is to deliver continues improvement to existing products and offer new soluti...

    • Recruiter: Helmet Integrated Systems / Gentex Corporation

    Apply for this job

  • Smart Grid Research Engineer

    Premium job

    University of Strathclyde
    • Cumbernauld, Glasgow
    • Grade: 6/7* £26,537 - £37,768*

    Work as part of a growing dynamic team on a wide range of technical projects with particular emphasis on experimental validation and testing

    • Recruiter: University of Strathclyde

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Asset Specialist

    Affinity Water
    • Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    Responsible for updating and writing electrical engineering standards, approved codes of practice and safe systems of work

    • Recruiter: Affinity Water

    Apply for this job

  • Senior Electronics Engineer

    York Instruments
    • York, North Yorkshire

    Senior electronics engineer to work as part of a team developing an MEG imaging system; working with the engineering team and external contractors.

    • Recruiter: York Instruments

    Apply for this job

  • Manufacturing Engineer - Circuit Card Assembly

    • Lostock Junction
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What’s the opportunity?   Manufacturing UK is an integral part of the Operations Directorate whose principal mission is to ensure that MBDA’s deliverable commitments are met...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • High Voltage Engineer

    Premium job

    Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment
    • Great Dunmow, Essex

    This High Voltage Engineer will provide design leadership for high voltage cable assemblies up to one megavolt.

    • Recruiter: Essex X-Ray & Medical Equipment

    Apply for this job

  • Team Leader - Flank Arrays

    BAE Systems
    • Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, England
    • Negotiable

    Team Leader - Flank Arrays Would you like to work in a unique role within the construction of the Astute Class submarines? We currently have a vacancy for a Team Leader - Flank Arrays at our site in Barrow-in-Furness. As a Team Leader - Flank Arrays, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics and Software Engineer

    Copley Scientific Ltd
    • Nottingham
    • circa £35,000 per annum + bonus

    Develop new test equipment for the pharmaceutical industry. Good opportunities to grow and develop. Successful family-owned and managed business.

    • Recruiter: Copley Scientific Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Bridge Test Facility Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Shropshire, Telford, England
    • Negotiable

    Bridge Test Facility ManagerWe currently have a vacancy for a Bridge Test Facility Manager at our site in Telford with our Land UK business.As the Bridge Test Facility Manager, you will be part of our Test & Trials team, working closely with the Mili

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Maintenance Electrician – Water Utilities

    United Utilities
    • Workington, Cumbria
    • Competitive salary + bonus & great benefits       

    A wide-ranging Maintenance Electrician role with United Utilities, serving millions in the North West.

    • Recruiter: United Utilities

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶


Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T