When Adorelle first read about electric roads, she understood their great potential. For over 12 years, she’s been working with electric vehicles and EV charging and is now CEO at Evias, a Swedish cleantech company with the mission to speed up the transition to electric vehicles. It’s currently preparing a demonstration site of their adapted solution for the mining industry in Australia and has a joint-venture, BluVein, that has signed with eight of the world’s biggest mining companies to financially support the demo site of their solution.
— If we could reduce the need for large batteries and need to plan and stop for charging, we could make the transition to EVs much faster. We do that by electrifying roads so that you can charge your electric vehicle while driving, she tells.
For some, the current transition that we see in your industry might be hard to comprehend. Could you share an overview of your sector and industry?
— A quick introduction to electric roads: An electric road, or eRoad system, is a system that allows for power transfer between a vehicle and the road that it is travelling on. Sweden is at the forefront when it comes to electric roads. The world’s first demo facility for an overhead line electric road was opened in Sandviken in 2016, and the world’s first demo facility for an electric road with a rail in the road was inaugurated the year after close to Arlanda. In October 2020, the government commissioned the Swedish Transport Administration to begin planning for the expansion of approximately 3,000 km of electric road along the state road network. The first permanent eRoad procurement, a stretch of 24 km close to Örebro, has just started. The electrification of the roads should be ready by 2037 so it is still a long way to go and systems that are not yet fully commercialized, says Adorelle. She continues:
— Today, there are mainly three types of eRoad systems. Overhead lines, in-road rails, or wirelessly under-road solutions.
— Overhead lines are based on a more mature technology but are only suitable for bigger trucks. The in-road solutions can be used for all types of vehicles. However, there are big energy losses with a wireless solution so the power it can take up is more suitable for vehicles with less power need.
— In the first stage, governments are mainly looking at taking the investment cost to install eRoads to secure the transition to e-trucks and heavier transports. Personal cars are supposed to always have time to stop for a coffee break and recharge their vehicle. With a growing need to switch to EVs also for other types of commercial usages such as last-mile solution with light commercial vehicles and taxi fleets — that use personal cars — we at EVIAS believe that a society that is investing in eRoads also should take into consideration all type of business needs, irrespectively the size of their vehicles. Installing in-road charging might even be cheaper.
How can technology and innovation further speed up this transition?
— Dynamic charging of vehicles can help to optimize the utilization rate of vehicles. I can take a real example from my past. Before joining Evias, I worked with a free-floating carsharing service with fully electric vehicles. One of our main challenges was how and when to charge vehicles. If we had many vehicles out in the morning traffic, we had to remove a substantial number of vehicles available for users to be able to charge cars. Meaning we missed the important lunch peak — or even the afternoon peak if we did not find chargers that were fast enough. This gave us a lower utilization rate of vehicles and consequently less income/vehicle. Adding up the cost of having staff that was moving cars to put them at a charging station and then back on the streets or at dedicated parking, it becomes difficult to reach break-even. If our customers could have recharged the vehicles while driving, we would probably even have been able to offer a cheaper service to our users.
— The same goes for, for instance, taxi fleets. A taxi company informed me that normally they have up to 3 drivers per vehicle, so it runs 24/7. Their EV cars only have one driver because the car is put on charging overnight. On top of that, the driver needs to plan charging stops, normally not available in the areas where they want to have lunch, and sometimes wait in a queue for a fast charger to be available. This means that a driver loses up to 10 % of his or her working time and a loss of income because of the need to recharge the vehicle.
— Dynamic charging will have a great impact on many services today, but it’ll also be a great solution in the future when we have autonomous vehicles.
Is the future of electric mobility station-based or dynamic charging, such as eRoads?
— I would say it is a mix! At a loading bay, it could be very beneficial to be able to charge the vehicle while loading/unloading goods. And before all vehicles are autonomous and can be driven 24/7, we will still have vehicles that will not be driven overnight. These vehicles can benefit from slow, station-based charging.
What is the most crucial call to action in other to improve the situation for you and the industry?
— We need to educate the market that eRoads do exist as well as highlight the benefits for a society to make the switch. Companies could push OEMs to be eRoad ready — just adding extra equipment on the vehicle, such as a tow bar.