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Michigan to have nation's first electrified road to wirelessly charge EVs, governor says

Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

Imagine being able to charge an electric vehicle without stopping to plug in. It's the kind of technology that could help ease worries like range anxiety and could really boost the transition to electric vehicles.

Michigan could have the first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road anywhere in the country, although the state is likely to be challenged to meet that goal because Indiana is already preparing to test such technology.

It's the idea behind a new initiative that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday morning as she helped open Motor Bella, this year's alternative for the North American International Auto Show being held this week at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

A one-mile stretch of road somewhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties will be picked to host the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot. The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning to issue a request for proposal on Sept. 28. It's not clear how the technology would work, how soon the pilot project would be operational or how much it might cost, although this type of advance has been discussed by experts as one possible future for EV charging and testing has been tried in Europe.

The Indiana project would use magnetizable concrete to enable wireless charging of electric vehicles, according to an Indiana Department of Transportation news release.

Scott Manning, an INDOT spokesman, said the in-pavement wireless charging project in that state was launched in July, and is currently being installed at a research facility in West Lafayette, Indiana.

"We expect to reach the second phase of the project, testing on a public roadway within one to two years," Manning said, noting that officials there were not aware of any other similar projects under way in the United States when they were researching it.

When asked about Indiana's project, Shelby Austin, a public relations official helping with the Whitmer announcement, said Michigan's request for proposal would effectively jump ahead of Indiana's plans, directly to the public road phase.

 

Following her announcement Tuesday, Whitmer noted the significance for this type of project.

"We're rebuilding infrastructure in Michigan. Orange barrels are everywhere. It's important that we're rebuilding, but we're doing it in a resilient way that supports advanced technology," Whitmer told reporters, noting that the wireless charging project is crucial to meeting the needs of fleets.

In a statement later, Whitmer pointed to Michigan's past as well as its future.

"Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we're paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure (that) will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050," Whitmer said.

The potential to charge electric buses, shuttles and other vehicles on the road without having to stop could do more than just help with electric vehicle deployment, according to Trevor Pawl, chief mobility officer with the state's Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.

"This electrified roadway has the potential to accelerate autonomous vehicles at scale and turn our streets into safe, sustainable, accessible and shared transportation platforms," Pawl said in a news release.

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