A road surface that could resolve the main bugbear of electric vehicles - how to effectively charge them and extend their range - is undergoing testing in northern Italy.
The Arena del Futuro (Arena of the Future) is a 1,050-metre long circuit built just off the A35 motorway about 40 miles east of Milan.
Its purpose is to test whether it is possible to charge an electric vehicle’s battery as it passes over the road’s surface.
It is a similar theory to wireless smartphone chargers, but previous efforts have struggled as there is such a poor transfer of energy, in part because of the distance between the car and the surface and also because of the need for it to be lined up accurately.
However, this particular research appears to be at an advanced stage and has major backing, including from Stellantis, which owns various car manufacturers including Citroen, Fiat and Peugeot.
Under current tests, an electric Fiat 500 and Iveco E-Way bus have been fitted with the technology to receive charge through the Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT) system, with "more than encouraging results".
Anne-Lise Richard, head of the global e-mobility business unit at Stellantis, said: “This is a cutting-edge solution to provide a concrete answer to the issues of range and charging, both of which customers are concerned about.
“We’re accelerating our role of defining the mobility of the future and, in this sense, DWPT technology seems to us to be in line with our desire to offer a concrete response to customers’ requirements. Charging vehicles while they are on the move provides clear advantages in terms of charging times and the size of their batteries.”
The technology works by passing a charge through wires in the road surface, with receivers on the cars able to capture this and use it to replenish the battery. Its developers say the technology will be connected, so it can pass messages to other vehicles on the road, for example about hazards ahead.
Earlier this year, a similar project in Sweden called Project Gotland was deemed successful by its organisers. Started in November 2019, it saw trucks charged when driving along a stretch of road, with it even working in snowy and rainy conditions.
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