The Swedes set out to build a permanent electric highway. The highway will charge electric vehicles while they are in motion, reducing the need for long charging breaks.
After several pilot projects, temporary versions of the road and experimentation with other solutions, the road will be built in 2025. However, engineers are still studying which technology is most suitable.
To a large extent, it depends on the type of vehicles used. Jan Petersson, director of strategic development at Trafikverket (Swedish transport authority), explained to Euronews Next that the biggest challenge of large-scale decarbonisation is finding the best solution for heavy vehicles.
Trucks require more batteries to travel longer distances with heavier loads. These add up to a great deal of weight, creating a vicious cycle. Sweden wants to reduce that burden by charging vehicles on the go.
Electric trams and trolleybuses are older solutions using either a catenary system (overhead line) or a conductive system (contact with an electrified rail) and are still common in many UK and European locations.
They’re also venturing into new places: France is running a major project to implement conductive charging for trucks on its national highways. However, they usually require a designated lane for that specific form of vehicle.
The team wants to use an inductive system, in which road technology can charge the vehicle’s battery via electromagnetic coils located in the underbody.
To date, test sites for this technology have been few. For example, the 3.2 km section between Visby and Gotland County Airport that Sweden commissioned in 2020.
The approximately 20 km of E20 selected for this project will be a major challenge. It links the logistics centers between Hallsberg and Örebro, and is well situated for access from the three main cities in Sweden, Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö.
If inductive technology is successful on long stretches of road, it could revolutionize the need for so many batteries in electric vehicles.
A study on electric highway systems for trucks suggests that passenger cars could benefit. According to this study, a combination of home charging and dynamic charging can reduce the battery life of an electric car by up to 70%.