The concept of creating “pads” and roads that are capable of charging EVs wirelessly is nothing new, and it’s an idea that Ford has been exploring in depth for some time now. In fact, the automaker has filed a bevy of patents outlining how wireless EV charging might work in the future, including ideas for an EV charging pad with wireless charging, a wireless charging system, and a roadway charging coil alignment and monitoring system. In terms of real-world applications, a company called WiTricity recently debuted a Ford Mustang Mach-E with wireless charging technology at the 2023 Detroit Auto Show. Last year, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced that was entering a five-year agreement with a company called Electreon for a wireless charging pilot program near Michigan Central Station as well, and now, the very first such stretch of roadway is officially open.
Crews just finished installing what is the very first wireless charging roadway in the U.S. near Michigan Central Station, or specifically, on 14th Street, which is now equipped with inductive-charging coils between Marantette and Dalzelle streets. This roadway will be used to wirelessly charge vehicles equipped with Electreon receivers – a Ford E-Transit to start – which will help developers fine tune the technology before allowing public access in a few years.
Electreon’s wireless charging technology utilizes inductive coupling between copper coils that is installed beneath the road surface, which works in tandem with receivers installed on EVs. The road is capable of transferring electricity wirelessly through a magnetic field, which in turn is sent to the battery either when the vehicle is parked or on the move. The coils are only activated when a vehicle with an approved receiver passes over them, which helps ensures that the energy transfer is controlled and provided only to vehicles that require it. Currently, the charging surface covers a quarter-mile, but will soon be expanded to a full mile, though the involved parties plan to eventually spread it throughout the area – and the state of Michigan.
“We’re excited to spearhead the development and deployment of America’s first wireless charging road,” said Dr. Stefan Tongur, Electreon vice president of business development. “This milestone stands as a testament to our collaborative efforts with the State of Michigan and MDOT, the City of Detroit, Michigan Central, Ford, Mcity, Jacobs, Next Energy, DTE, and others. Alongside Michigan’s automotive expertise, we’ll demonstrate how wireless charging unlocks widespread EV adoption, addressing limited range, grid limitations, and battery size and costs. This project paves the way for a zero-emission mobility future, where EVs are the norm, not the exception.”