So you have bought into the green dream: a fully electric vehicle. Juice it up on your drive or at a local charging point if there is one. Then all you have to do on longer journeys is find a scarce roadside charging station — assuming your sockets and any cables needed are compatible with it.
Dynamic or induction charging is one seemingly brilliant solution. Imagine the road itself powering and charging your vehicle as you drive along. Visions of a grown-up version of slot racing car toys such as Scalextric spring to mind.
The idea is to generate a magnetic charge in the road that vehicles pick up and turn into electricity to drive their wheels. Holcim has announced a partnership to develop magnetisable concrete. French carmaker Renault also sees a big future for induction charging.
Could this be the way to close the charging supply gap? In the UK, for example, the government recognises that there is a lack of chargers. In order to meet the UK’s 2050 net zero carbon goals it must intervene. There are currently only 25,000 charge points in the UK or 34 per 100,000 people. That number must rise to almost half a million by 2030. The US Congress has approved a plan to spend $5bn on EV charge stations, prioritising interstate highways.
Unfortunately, dynamic charging does not offer a mass market solution. The technology requires compromises on efficiency and intensity. That means more power is required with longer charging times than with rapid charge plug-in technologies.
There may still be niche applications. Static induction charging is already being trialled at taxi ranks in the UK and Norway. This allows cabs to charge passively without plugging in. Bus stops could be another application. Plans to use overhead cabling for electric road freight transport could be more cheaply done, perhaps 40 per cent less, with a wireless technology, thinks consultancy Cenex.
The biggest problem with magnetic tarmac is that deploying the technology widely would mean replacing a lot of road. That would be good for Holcim and its ilk. But waiting in traffic at roadworks would only increase range anxiety for EV owners.