UK to begin trials of ‘electric highways’

Electric Vehicles -An artist's rendition of an electric highway. Image courtesy of Highways England.
An artist's rendition of an electric highway. Image courtesy of Highways England.

The UK Government has announced plans to begin trials of new so-called ‘Electric Highways’ designed to accommodate electric vehicles.

Specifically, these electric highways would contain the technology to charge electric vehicles as they drive along specific lanes.

The planned trial of this technology follows a feasibility study by the UK Government into what it calls ‘dynamic wireless power transfer’.

Currently, electric cars have maximum ranges of around 200-300 km on a full charge. These proposed highway charging lanes would provide one solution to this problem, allowing for these vehicles to travel much longer journeys.

“Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on our England’s motorways and major A roads,” said Highways England chief highways engineer, Mike Wilson in a press statement.

The first trials of the dynamic wireless power transfer technology will occur in a controlled, off-road environment, and will last at least 18 months.

Vehicles fitted with wireless charging technology will be driven along a custom-built track designed to simulate motorway conditions. This track will contain inbuilt charging coils which implement a similar inductive charging concept to that used in newer smartphones.

“The off road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country,” Wilson continued.

Should the off-road trials be successful, the UK government could then begin the construction of the first publically available Electric Highways.

As well, Highways England is also looking into the possible construction of dedicated electric vehicle charging points spaced every 20 miles along major motorways.

Together, this planned push for roadways which accommodate future electric vehicles is part of a £500m (US$783m) investment earmarked by the UK government.

“The potential to recharge low emission vehicles on the move offers exciting possibilities. […] we continue to explore options on how to improve journeys and make low-emission vehicles accessible to families and businesses,” said Transport Minister Andrew Jones