Some might believe that the automotive industry’s future lies in automated, self-driving vehicles that allow passengers to relax and enjoy the ride to their destination. However, due to a plethora of environmental concerns, the future of the automotive industry has begun to pivot toward more eco-friendly electric forms of transportation. An electric vehicle (EV) produces zero tailpipe emissions in full-electric mode, dramatically lowering smog and greenhouse gas emissions even when considering electricity generation.
Between 2020 and 2021, the global electric vehicle market experienced rapid growth, resulting in a 26 percent increase. Despite COVID-19 restrictions and component shortages, global electric vehicle sales overall topped 6.4 million units sold worldwide in 2021.
Nonetheless, the migration to electric vehicles has a few obstacles to overcome before becoming a leading form of transportation. The most significant challenge is the lack of charging infrastructure; it does not consistently support long-distance travel, and charging stations are not always available en route. While installing additional charging stations to create a more robust charging infrastructure involves a massive investment—that has not deterred innovators from developing solutions.
Recently, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME), the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) announced the award of a contract to build a first in the U.S. public wireless in-road charging system allowing electric vehicles (EV) to charge while in motion and stationary. Electreon was selected to build an electric road system (ERS) in Detroit at a later date as part of the inductive vehicle charging pilot program.
Gov. Whitmer first announced the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot in September 2021 at Motor Bella. Later that month, MDOT released the request for proposal specifying the system is safe, scalable, interoperable with industry technology and vehicles, and financially and environmentally sustainable.
“As Michigan aims to boost electric vehicle production and lower consumer costs, a wireless inroad charging system is the next piece to the puzzle for sustainability,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “I am happy to see our state take the lead and continually build on these groundbreaking initiatives creating new business opportunities and high-tech jobs.”
More than half of Michigan’s automotive suppliers already conduct automated vehicle testing in the state. Michigan also offers nearly 600 miles of roadway equipped for connected vehicle testing, and with this new project, it is building the road of the future with a new 40-mile connected corridor.
“This is such an exciting time for the Motor City and the entire state. Michigan continues to lead the charge on electric vehicles, and this investment in the first public wireless in-road charging system in the U.S. further solidifies our position as a leader in EV technology,” said U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. “Public-private partnerships like this is how we will promote innovation and outcompete the rest of the world. I applaud Electreon for receiving this award, and I’ll continue to champion investments in electric vehicle infrastructure.”
“Here in Michigan, embracing bold innovations that transform the future of mobility and electrification is a part of our DNA,” said Trevor Pawl, chief mobility officer for the state of Michigan. “We are thrilled to see how Electreon’s proposals become a nationwide model for how we can continue accelerating electric vehicle adoption and usher in a new generation of transportation technologies.”
Electreon offers electromobility (e.g., green mobility) solutions with cutting-edge wireless charging technology by using an invisible shared platform with adaptable capabilities to accommodate the operational needs of the vehicle. Their product suite includes:
- Dynamic charging for vehicles regularly in motion
- Semi-dynamic charging for slow-moving vehicles
- Stationary charging for when vehicles are not in motion
The company will head the pilot program, leading: the design, evaluation, iteration, testing, and implementation. Collaborating on this project with NextEnergy and Jacobs Engineering Group, they plan to be operational by 2023. The project is currently slated for up to a 1 mile stretch of both dynamic and stationary wireless EV charging in Detroit. The project will be hosted by and live within Michigan Central, a mobility innovation district, and supported by partners like Ford Motor Co., DTE Energy, and the City of Detroit.
“We are proud and thankful to be selected by the Michigan Department of Transportation to lead and implement the first wireless electric road system in the United States,” said Stefan Tongur, vice president of Electreon. “We’re excited to be transferring our success in wireless charging for a variety of electric fleets – from cars to buses and heavy-duty trucks – to this innovative project. There’s important work ahead with our partners in Detroit to develop scalable, ‘plug-free’ charging that will future-proof the City’s EV infrastructure.”
MDOT will provide $1.9 million in funding towards the pilot project, with Electreon contributing the remainder. Electrified roadways have the potential to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles by consumers and fleet operations alike by enabling continuous vehicle operations and turning public streets into safe and sustainable shared energy platforms.
“The City of Detroit and the Office of Mobility Innovation are excited to be a part of this first-of-its-kind deployment in the U.S.,” said Tim Slusser, City of Detroit’s chief of mobility innovation. “We look forward to this wireless charging infrastructure attracting other mobility tech companies to Detroit to innovate. The City is committed to working with companies like Electreon to help keep Detroit at the forefront of electric vehicle technology and mobility innovation.”
“The electrified future is one of the focus areas for Michigan Central, and we are creating the platform and convening the partners to help scale EVs and discover new technologies and business models,” said Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central development director. “Implementing a public wireless EV charging road system in the district area – the first in the U.S. – will help not only serve as an asset for innovation for many partners, now and in the future, but also as a tool for education on the value electrification can create, including for everyday needs. This collaboration symbolizes the open platform Michigan Central is creating for partners of all kinds to come together and test and deploy innovations in a real-world environment.”
Michigan was named an Innovation Champion — the highest level — in the biennial Consumer Technology Association’s (CTA) US Innovation Scorecard in 2018 and 2020, further proving the state’s continued commitment to developing policies designed to support the implementation of more innovation projects utilizing the latest technology advancements. The state continues to embrace innovation while looking for new technologies to help increase resiliency and build a more sustainable future for its residents.