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Sweden is testing electrified roads for unlimited EV range

Even the most advanced electric vehicles come with one major drawback — batteries still suck. You might be able to get a few hundred miles on a charge with one of the expensive high-capacity batteries, but recharging will take ages.

What if he road could power your electric vehicle, though? The Swedish government is running a pilot program to study how electrified roads could give EVs unlimited range.

The actual system probably isn’t what you’d expect for a futuristic concept. Sweden has built two kilometers of electrified overhead wiring on the E16 motorway to power vehicles. This is the same basic system that has been used to supply power to trains, trolleys, and light rail vehicles since the late 1800s. The overhead wires provide 750 volts of direct current, transmitted down via two wires to specially modified trucks.

The trucks used in the test are hybrid electrics, meaning they have biofuel engines and small 5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion batteries. The battery provides enough juice to travel just a few miles, but that’s only supposed to be used to get from one electrified road to another. When the truck is driving under the wires, all its power comes from the embedded power supply. The biofuel engine acts as a backup.

The overhead wire approach is probably only feasible for big trucks like the ones being tested. They often drive the same routes and they’re really tall. Passenger vehicles aren’t tall enough to safely attach the pantograph poles that make connection with the wires.

Sweden is also testing a different type of electrified road that has energized rails embedded in the surface. Cars would use a special “shoe” to draw power from the road. This is a much more complicated solution as it requires replacing the driving surface. Putting up overhead electrical wires could be a good initial strategy to make all those big rigs carbon neutral.

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