Furthering the state's planned transition to all-electric fleet operations, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced last week that the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) has selected Israel-based start-up Electreon to develop and pilot a wireless inductive charging road system for electric vehicles in the state.

The wireless charging system will be the first public infrastructure of its kind in the U.S. to dynamically charge vehicles while they are stationary and in motion. MDOT will provide $1.9 million in funding toward the pilot project as outlined in an RFP, with Electreon required to match that funding by 25% once under contract. Funding does not include additional investment by project partners.   

"As we aim to lead the future of mobility and electrification by boosting electric vehicle production and lowering consumer costs, a wireless in-road charging system is the next piece to the puzzle for sustainability," Gov. Whitmer said in a press release about the state's selection of Electreon. With the state's "Big Three" automakersFord, GM and Chrysler—all scaling up their electric vehicle offerings and technology development, Whitmer said Michigan's electric vehicle technology investments are driving "new business opportunities and high-tech jobs."

The pilot is targeted to launch 2023 on a 1-mile road stretch in Detroit. NextEnergy, DTE Energy, Kiewit and Jacobs Engineering Group have all been tapped as collaborators on the development of the project.

Charging the Future

Electreon points to its successfully deployed wireless charging projects in Israel, Sweden, Germany and Italy as proof that the in-road system is durable in various weather conditions and adaptable to several usage cases.

In Israel, Electreon utilizes its wireless charging as a monthly subscription service to charge a large fleet of buses.  

For Michigan's pilot, Electreon is expected to serve in a more operational role to manage the installation, design and evaluation of the system for MDOT.

"This is not a pilot for the sake of doing a pilot," Electreon vice president Stefan Tongur says. The pilot presents an opportunity to create a "living lab that can demonstrate use cases and grow from there." 

The system works using a series of copper wireless charging coils installed under the road to transfer energy to a receiver that can be connected to any electric vehicle battery. The result is a reduced need for larger more expensive batteries in some electric cars while extending the battery reach of others, Tongur says. 

Because electric vehicles must be integrated with Electreon's wireless receiver to be charged on the road, the Michigan pilot will focus on integrating the technology with fleet vehicles such as busses and delivery trucks over consumer vehicles.  

"Ultimately, I would say the vision is that these electric roads can support and enable charging for any type of vehicle," Tongur says. "We are calling it an open charging platform because that helps with higher utilization of the infrastructure compared to the energy required for stationary charging platforms. Once we build them for buses and delivery trucks, then you can open the system up for the public and it will makes sense."  

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $7.5 billion to help develop a national network of 500,000 stationary electric vehicle chargers to help ease the consumer transition from gas to electric cars. Last week, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence introduced a bill to create a $50-million grant funding program in the federal Department of Transportation that will also help cover the cost of wireless electric vehicle charging projects in states.  

"We are thrilled to see how Electreon's proposals become a nationwide model for how we can continue accelerating electric vehicle adoption and usher in a new generation of transportation technologies," said Trevor Pawl, Michigan's chief mobility officer in a press release about the state's pilot program.