A road capable of charging electric vehicles en route to their destinations could power up as soon as 2025 in one of the world’s most eco-friendly nations. As the Amsterdam-based tech site The Next Web explains, Sweden is well on track to electrifying a roughly 13-mile portion of its E20 highway spanning between Hallsberg to Örebro, both of which are located between Sweden’s two largest cities, Stockholm and Gothenburg.
The electric road system (ERS) project is overseen by the nation’s transport administration, Trafikverket, who are still determining which of three specific technologies could be best suited for the task: overhead conductive, ground-based conductive, and ground-based inductive charging. The first format utilizes an overhead pantograph design similar to those seen atop traditional trolleys and streetcars, but would be limited to large vehicles capable of reaching the tall power lines, i.e. public commuter vehicles.
The other two options, however, could hypothetically also support smaller vehicles and private EVs. In a ground-based conductive format, power would transfer from specialized tracks installed either on top or below the pavement via a mechanical arm. Inductive charging would require conductive coils installed in both the roads and vehicles.
As futuristic as these ideas may sound, Sweden has already successfully tested all three ERS methods in various areas around the nation, including the towns of Gotland, Lund, and Sandviken. While much of that work has pertained to mass transit options, designers also tinkered with systems capable of supporting smaller and private vehicles as far back as 2018.
There are immense benefits to expanding ERS capabilities, beyond just the immediate convenience. According to one recent study from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, increased reliance on ERS installations alongside at-home EV charging could lower electrical grid demands during peak usage times, as well as potentially reduce vehicle battery size by as much as 70 percent. Those smaller batteries would mean less rare earth materials are harvested, leading to potentially cheaper, more accessible EV options for consumers.
“After all, many people charge their cars after work and during the night, which puts a lot of strain on the power grid,” author Sten Karlsson, an energy efficiency researcher and professor at Chalmers, said in a release in March. “By instead charging more evenly throughout the day, peak load would be significantly reduced.”
Sweden isn’t alone in its aim to electrify portions of its roadways. As the electric transportation industry site Electrive notes, similar projects are also underway in the UK, Germain, Italy, and Israel. Here in the US, the Norwegian company ENRX recently announced plans to install a one-mile ERS prototype section within a stretch of four-lane highway near Orlando, Florida.