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Volvo Tests Electric Roads

electric roadsThe Volvo Group is testing a program to supply electric power to trucks and buses via power lines built into the surface of the road, thus eliminating the need for large in-vehicle batteries.

While city plug-in buses are equipped with a battery that can be charged quickly when the vehicles are at bus stops, this doesn’t work for long-distance trucks and buses, which would need so many batteries that there would be no room for any loads or passengers. Long-distance fleets require a solution where power is continuously supplied to the truck from an external source.

To this end, Volvo is participating in a large Swedish research project with the support of the Swedish Energy Agency. The project includes the Swedish Transport Administration, Vattenfall, several universities, vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.

The method currently being developed and tested by the Volvo Group, together with Alstom, entails two power lines built into the surface of the road along the entire length of the road. A current collector in contact with the power lines is located on the truck.

Last year, Volvo built a 400-meter long track at its testing facility in Hällered outside Gothenburg. The company has been testing the system since last fall. It’s currently testing a system to connect the electricity from the road to the truck via a water-cooled heating element, with similar power requirement as an electricity-driven truck, says Richard Sebestyen, project manager at Volvo Group Trucks Technology.

The company says “a great deal of research” remains before this system can become a reality. It involves the continued technical development of the current collector, electric motor and the control systems required. It also involves road construction, road maintenance, electricity supply along the roads and various payment models.

But the company says it is “convinced” it will find a cost-efficient way to supply electricity to long-distance vehicles.

Earlier this month, Volvo Buses said its plug-in hybrid buses — which the company says reduce fuel consumption by at least 75 percent compared with diesel buses — will hit the streets of Gothenburg, Sweden this month as part of a field test.

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