Stellantis Researching Inductive Charging Using Dedicated Test Track

If you are a fan of Popular Mechanics or Popular Science, you have read lots of stories over the years of electric cars that take advantage of inductive charging to keep their batteries full while they drive. The stories always have a sort of breathless, “Gee, Mr. Wizard” quality about them with lots of illustrations showing happy people smiling a lot as they waft along. They seldom offer many details, however, about how all those excited electrons jump from below the pavement to the battery of a car as it speeds along.

Stellantis, despite the grumpiness of its chief executive when it comes to manufacturing electric cars, has built a 0.6 mile long test track known rather grandly as the “Arena del Futuro” in Chiari, Italy, where it says it has managed to achieve efficiency levels inductive charging technology that are similar to those associated with DC fast chargers. Assuming such system ever graduates to highways in the real world, electric cars would theoretically be capable of truly bladder bursting range, which would eliminate one of the criticisms of today’s electric cars.

According to CarScoops, Stellantis has been successful at getting an electric Fiat 500 to travel at highway speeds without using any of the energy stored in its battery. The company is working with several partners to test the technology on cars, buses, and trucks. The test facility uses a system of coils located under the asphalt that transfers energy to vehicles equipped with a special receiver. That energy goes directly from the road to the electric motors, allowing them to drive a vehicle without running the battery down.

The system runs on DC current, which reduces power losses and allows the use of thinner cables made of aluminum instead of copper. It also allows the system to run on electricity from solar panels, which produce DC current. Stellantis claims there are no exposed cables that might be a danger to pedestrians and that the magnetic field created by the inductive charging system has no negative impact on the driver or passengers.

“Our long-term strategic plan, Dare Forward 2030, is based on the premise of bringing ‘cutting-edge freedom of mobility’ to all and this project is the very essence of where we’re headed as a company,” said Anne-Lise Richard, the head of the Global e-Mobility Business Unit at Stellantis. “These joint projects are exciting steps as we work to achieve longer battery lifespan, lower range anxiety, greater energy efficiency, smaller battery size, outstanding performance, and lower weight and cost.”

Inductive Charging For All!

Stellantis is working with several partners to test inductive charging technology. The system itself is supplied by Israeli company ElectReon. Others involved in the research include Iveco, ABB, chemical group Mapei, FIAMM Energy Technology, and three Italian universities. Iveco is testing a 12-meter E-Bus bus fitted with the necessary connectivity and charging technology. In a press release, it says the bus charged inductively with 75 kW of power at speeds of 70 km/h or more.

Domenico Nucera, president of Iveco’s Bus Business Unit, said, “Induction charging technology also has exciting potential for commercial vehicles and could become an effective infrastructure platform for all e-mobility systems, not just pure electric vehicles. We will continue testing in the belief that this technology can effectively contribute to the transition to zero-emission mobility thanks to the benefits it offers to all users.”

The Takeaway

This is potentially good news for the EV revolution, as anything that reduces range anxiety is a good thing. However, we don’t know anything about the cost of building electrified roads or equipping vehicles with the right hardware to utilize the system. We don’t know how road salt, snow, and freezing temperatures may affect the performance of the system. In short, this is all nice to know but is nowhere near being ready for widespread commercial use.

Nevertheless, a journey of  thousand miles begins with a single step, so kudos to Stellantis for making this testing happen. If it ever makes it to real world driving, we hope to break the story before Popular Mechanics does.


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