Cable Management: Stellantis Invests in Roads Which Wirelessly Charge EVs

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • El scotto El scotto on Dec 07, 2021

    In PA the turnpike charges you!

  • Stuki Stuki on Dec 08, 2021

    Inductive charging certainly seems like a tough one. But the general idea: That for BEVs to be broadly viable, they have to be powered directly by the infrastructure for the high draw portions of trips, with battery storage only being for last-mile, is not only "neat", but indeed absolutely necessary. Dragging a ton or more of deadweight around everywhere you go, simply in order to have the range to get out of sight of a charging station for those few trips when you must, is so gratuitously inefficient, that even the naivest of starry eyed dullards will eventually wake up to it. Drawing the power you need to move down (or up) the highway, plus whatever it takes to charge your last-mile battery, as you go along, just about may allow BEVs to approach ICE cars for overall lifetime efficiency (aka total cost.) While also facilitating (for real, not just a sad joke made to fool those easily fooled) actual "self-driving", on the portions of trips where the vehicles are tightly "connected." Not being much of a "but Flash Gordon is real now, because my IPhone has such advanced looking emojis" kind of guy; I personally believe the most straight forward way to (possibly) get there; at least in the beginning; is still to drive up onto "railcarts with a charger," running on a steel-on-steel railnet dropping them off fully charged at the destination offramp. In effect, leaving cars to be largely as they are, while keeping their interface to any emerging self powered "electric" infrastructure fluid. "Railcarts" may not look as flashy and future'y as "inductive charging," and flying cars powered by green dreams; but they're at least a little bit less conceptually far off. And it's not as if later cars can't be changed to "bring their own interface" along, bypassing the need for a cart, later on, if that makes more sense. Also, from a trucking/goods distribution POV: Containers can ride on railcarts even without bringing heavy, expensive tractors and drivers along for a ride between massively distant onramps and offramps. That's a rather big one. Perhaps even more so for Europe, where containers can move uninterrupted and driverless all the way from China, only relying on last mile movement by human driven tractor. But anyway, whatever the details may be wrt what these guys are doing: It's at least a god sign they are thinking a little bit further than blindly believing nonsense about magical batteries with nuclear power densities and, like, AI and stuff, being just around the corner, on some mythical Highway to Musk.

  • Sobro Needs moar Roots.
  • RHD Questions? None, no, not really. Interested in some random Hyundai? No, not at all. Yawn.
  • Formula m Alfa-Romeo had the great idea to unveil my all time favourite car at the world expo in Montreal. Never built or Sold in North America. The called it the Alfa Romeo Montreal. Never even sold in North America.
  • RHD Nice little car. Give it comfortable seats, price it very competitively and leave the Alfa Romeo script on the grille. We need a smaller, cheaper electric car, and this could be just the thing to bring AR back. Heck, rebrand a variant as a Chrysler, so that potential buyers actually have something to look at in the showroom. Give it a nice long warranty. The wheels are great, hopefully the rest of it will follow through.