One solution often seen with electric buses, and sometimes with electric trucks, is to power them via attachment to overhead power lines. This is both unsightly and can cause delays in scheduling should the vehicle’s power connector fall off the line. One solution to these issues is to go under the road as seen in in a large Swedish research project automaker Volvo is participating in.
The project, said Volvo, entails two power lines built into the surface of a road along the entire length of the road. A current collector in contact with the power lines and is located on the bottom of the electric vehicle, providing constant energy to move the truck or bus forward much like overhead power lines would. Lines would be built in sections, and only one section would be live as the vehicle passes overhead. It is envisioned as an ideal solution for long distance vehicles.
Besides the previously mentioned advantages, another big one would be no need for large batteries. By removing these batteries from the vehicle’s footprint, more room could be made available for more commercial loads or passengers.
As exciting as this project sounds, it is still in the early stages of development. Working with Alstom, Volvo just last year 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,” said Richard Sebestyen, project manager at Volvo Group Trucks Technology, in a statement. “The electricity flows into a water-cooled heating element, with similar power requirement as an electricity-driven truck.”
Next steps include 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. To reach these milestones, Volvo is working with the Swedish Energy Agency, as well as the Swedish Transport Administration, Vattenfall, several universities, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.