Charging an electric vehicle (EV) while it's moving down the road—a technology known as dynamic charging—has been a dream in the EV world for years. Researchers and automakers have been testing the idea in labs and on small stretches of road for at least the past decade. This month, Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), and a German startup called Magment announced they would take the next step with the "world's first wireless charging concrete highway." If everything goes to plan, Magment will install its "magnetizable concrete" on an Indiana highway in a yet-to-be-determined location.
The first two phases of the test, which will start later this summer, will see researchers at the Joint Transportation Research Program (JTRP) at Purdue's West Lafayette campus test, analyze, and optimize the pavement. It won't be until phase three that construction crews will actually build a quarter-mile stretch of the magnetized road. This will give engineers the chance to test the concrete's ability to charge heavy trucks operating at 200 kilowatts and above. If the technology proves successful in all three phases, INDOT said it would install the wireless charging cement on a segment of interstate highway somewhere within Indiana.
"This project is a real step forward towards the future of dynamic wireless charging that will undoubtedly set the standard for affordable, sustainable, and efficient transportation electrification," Magment CEO Mauricio Esguerra said in a statement.
Magment gets its name from the magnetized cement it calls magment. The material incorporates a technology called MagPad, an inductive charger installed either on or in the ground with a power output level between 200 watts and 250 kWs. The company was founded in 2015. There are other uses for the MagPad technology, including warehouses that use electric forklifts and urban electric scooter parking areas where the vehicles can charge while they wait for the next rider.
Magment says its concrete, filled with magnetic particles, has a wireless energy transmission efficiency of up to 95 percent and can operate under all weather conditions.
Despite the potential benefits of vehicles charging while driving down the road, there is reason to be skeptical of Magment's claims. In general, roads are challenging to transform into anything other than a hard surface that takes a lot of abuse. The company's website does not have detailed technical descriptions of how the magnetized concrete will actually charge vehicles.
There's also no mention of which, if any, automakers might be interested in this technology. And, while it has no connection to Magment, there was a company named Solar Roadways that tried to build solar-powered roadways but ultimately made promises that the company could not fulfill. It was later called a "failure of epic proportions."