The road of tomorrow is electric

Consider a future where trucks and buses continuously are supplied with electric power without carrying large batteries. Instead, power lines are built into the surface of the road. This could be a future solution for long-distance trucks and buses running on electricity.

The Volvo Group already has extensive knowledge about electric drivetrains, but in order to become world leading in sustainable transport solutions, the Volvo Group must find even more solutions that allow the vehicles to operate on renewable energy. A great deal of this energy will be distributed as electricity. However, the challenge is about supplying the vehicle with electricity power when needed.

“In city traffic, there are currently various solutions and we are researching many others. We have field tests in progress where our plug-in buses are equipped with a battery that can be charged quickly when the buses are at bus stops,” says Mats Alaküla, the Volvo Group’s expert on electric vehicles and Professor at Lund University.

But for long-distance trucks and buses, this will not work. They stop infrequently and to cope with this task they would need so many batteries that there would be no room for any loads or passengers. A solution is required where power is continuously supplied to the truck from an external source.

The Volvo Group participates in a large Swedish research project to find solutions for this, with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency. The project includes the Swedish Transport Administration, Vattenfall, several universities, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

The method currently being developed and tested by the Volvo Group, together with Alstom, entails two power lines built into the surface of the road along the entire length of the road. A current collector in contact with the power lines will be located on the truck.
“With this method, electric vehicles could be continuously supplied with power without carrying large batteries,” says Mats Alaküla. “The power line will be built in sections and one section is only live as the truck passes.”

Last year, Volvo built a 400-meter long track at its testing facility in Hällered outside Gothenburg. The company has been testing the system since last autumn.

“We are currently testing how to connect the electricity from the road to the truck. The electricity flows into a water-cooled heating element, with similar power requirement as an electricity-driven truck,” says Richard Sebestyen, who is the project manager at Volvo Group Trucks Technology, which is the Volvo Group’s research and development division.

However, a great deal of research still remains before this can become a reality. It involves the continued technical development of the current collector, electric motor and the control systems required. It also involves road construction, road maintenance, electricity supply along the roads and various payment models, etc.

“A lot of years remain before this is on our roads,” says Mats Alaküla.

“But, if we are to succeed in creating sustainable transport systems, we must invest significantly in research now. I am convinced that we will find a cost-efficient way to supply electricity to vehicles in long-distance traffic and we have already come a long way in our research.”


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  3. hahaha…. are you kidding me?

  4. Saving environment is better idea and no doubt if everyone owned electric vehicles then to some extent we save our natural habitats. Even government is trying to provide facilities life loan to purchase these electric vehicles part of life.

  5. In USA up to 2015 people use electric vehicle and its purchase rte is increase because of government funds a sit is nice step to save our planet.

  6. Could inductive charging be used instead of conductive?

    The “slot-car” plan is a good idea, or Volvo would not be interested. We have to think beyond burning hydrocarbons. The sun gives us enough energy every day to power everything for a year if we could harness it.

    EVs with batteries could benefit from recharging or a power-assist on steep climbs with a “inductive boost” lane. Knowing nothing of electrical engineering, I can imagine it is impossible to re-charge and dis-charge simultaneously, though.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. I agree with other comments that the infrastructure for this kind of project is going to be massively expensive. Not only that but you can start to imagine that it would be less sustainable than just carrying batteries. While carrying batteries might mean using more energy due to the extra weight, if the energy is acquired from a renewable sources then that is not so much of an issue. And providing that battery technology improves and new batteries will be of higher density, batteries are much more practical and do not restrict your path options.

    The infrastructure would require using massive amounts of material, which could otherwise be used in more practical applications.

  8. Way too expensive and impractical. In Canada we have many seasonal roads and even ice roads. How would you electrify those?

    This is a bad idea which will be quickly forgotten once metal-air batteries come to market. For instance lithium-air has an energy density close to gasoline and as such could be used by trucks and buses(and even airplanes for that matter) with no weight issues.

  9. Trying to re-invent the railways, but without the rails ?
    Trying to re-invent trolley buses, but without the overhead wires ?
    May I respectfully suggest that this is a crazy idea.
    Take a step back, and look at your concept again. You may be able to engineer around the many problems you will discover, but the end result will be an expensive nightmare.

  10. When you use short blocks insulated between one another and activated from below there is no problem electrifying large areas. As this system the area activated shuts off once the truck has passed. It is very easy to make this system safe in all weather conditions. Just have to find a way to make it affordable for long distances. The city or region should be supplying the power and receiving the financial rewards. Once a proper system is devised there is no reason why city streets can’t be electrified. This system will be much safer than the power lines we have now.

  11. I believe there may be two key parameters that will need further investigation. 1. How to insure the safety public at large from the connection plate especially during a rain or snow event? Additionally how to prevent the connector plate from becoming unusable during ice or snow buildup?
    2. The power factor correction needed when multiple vehicles are utilizing the same stretch of road. How can we insure that there is not a power dip because there are many users on the system?

  12. We can focus on solar energy even