Nov 29, 2023 - Technology

Detroit's newest road can charge electric cars as they travel on it

Illustration of electric cars and lightning bolts

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Detroit is now home to the country's first stretch of road that can wirelessly charge an electric vehicle (EV), whether it's parked or moving.

Why it matters: Wireless charging on an electrified roadway could remove one of the biggest hassles of owning an EV: the need to stop and plug in regularly.

  • Electrified roads could also be helpful in keeping electric buses, delivery vans, long-haul trucks and robotaxis operating around the clock.

Driving the news: Officials on Wednesday celebrated the completed installation of inductive-charging coils made by Israeli startup Electreon in a quarter-mile section of 14th Street in Detroit's Michigan Central, a mobility innovation district.

  • The road will be used to test and perfect Electreon's wireless-charging technology in a real-world environment before making it available to the public in the next few years.
  • In 2024, Michigan will begin seeking bids to rebuild part of US-12 (Michigan Avenue), where additional inductive charging is to be installed.

How it works: When an EV equipped with an approved receiver nears the in-road charging segment, the road transfers electricity wirelessly through a magnetic field.

  • The electricity is then transferred as energy to the vehicle's battery.
  • It works whether the vehicle is parked (static charging) or moving (dynamic charging).

Of note: You don't have to worry about getting zapped by coming in contact with the pavement; it's safe for drivers, pedestrians and wildlife, Electreon says.

Context: Electreon is one of more than 60 tech and mobility startups that are members of Detroit Newlab, an innovation hub anchored by the once-dilapidated Michigan Central train station currently under renovation by Ford.

  • Its wireless charging technology is already being tested in several cities in Europe, Israel and China.

The bottom line: With the first (albeit short) electric roadway in the U.S., Detroit continues to stake its claim as America's transportation innovation hub.

Go deeper: A roadway will charge your EV while you're driving

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