Highways England and Under Secretary of State for Transport Andrew Jones MP announced today that off-road (test track) trials of technology needed to power electric and hybrid vehicles on England’s major roads are due to take place later this year.
The trials are the first of their kind and will test how the technology would work safely and effectively on the country’s motorways and major A roads, allowing drivers of ultra-low emission vehicles to travel long distances without needing to stop and charge the car’s battery.
The trials — which will involve fitting vehicles with wireless technology and testing the equipment, installed underneath the road, to replicate motorway conditions — follow the completion of the feasibility study commissioned by Highways England into ‘dynamic wireless power transfer’ technologies.
“The potential to recharge low-emission vehicles on the move offers exciting possibilities,” Jones said. “The government is already committing £500 million over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology, which will help boost jobs and growth in the sector. As this study shows, we continue to explore options on how to improve journeys and make low-emission vehicles accessible to families and businesses.”
“Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever-increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on our England’s motorways and major A roads,” said Highways England Chief Highways Engineer Mike Wilson. “The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country.”
The trials are expected to last for approximately 18 months and, subject to the results, could be followed by on-road trials.
As well as investigating the potential to install technology to wirelessly power EVs, Highways England is also committed in the longer term to installing plug-in charging points every 20 miles on the motorway network as part of the government’s Road Investment Strategy.
This isn’t the first time engineers have thought to use our addiction to driving to generate energy – in May 2014, an Idaho couple announced they had developed a modular paving system of solar panels that can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, bike paths, and playgrounds, and generate electricity to power homes and businesses connected via driveways and parking lots. While the couple raised over $2.2M via an Indiegogo campaign, the project appears to still be pending. But a similar idea emerged in Europe in December, when the world's first public road that includes embedded solar cells opened in the town of Krommenie in the Netherlands. The crystalline silicon solar cells are encased in two layers of tempered safety glass, set in a concrete housing. The road is a bike commuter path on a special roadway outside Amsterdam. Power generated by the panels is funneled into the national energy grid.