Drive-by charging on the cards for electric trucks

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

An Australian project will attempt to recharge heavy-duty electric trucks as they drive along roads.
An Australian project will attempt to recharge heavy-duty electric trucks as they drive along roads.

A world-first project will attempt to recharge heavy-duty electric trucks as they drive along roads in regional Australia, in a development researchers say could help accelerate adoption of low-emission transport.

The $8.2 million project could also be used to wirelessly recharge passenger cars in future, they say, addressing range anxiety and demand for public charging stations.

The project, led by Swinburne University of Technology, received a $3 million government grant towards developing a prototype of the technology, which could be operational within three years.

The university’s New Energy Technology Research Group lead Professor Mehdi Seyedmahmoudian said the technology would be a first for Australia and, when successful, the prototype would be the first in the world to top up the batteries of trucks and buses on the move.

“We are trying to charge large electric vehicles wirelessly while they are moving on the road in a very simple way,” he told AAP.

“You can imagine 1.5km of road that the vehicles could drive on, obviously with a limited speed, and it would charge the vehicle.”

Prof Seyedmahmoudian said he expected the prototype to work by building coils into the test strip of road and retrofitting existing heavy-duty trucks and buses with receivers to harness the charge.

The prototype could deliver around 50 kilowatts of power to boost a vehicle’s battery, which would help to shorten charging time or reduce the need for large batteries in heavy vehicles, lowering their cost and weight.

Dynamic wireless charging for large electric vehicles could make a significant difference in the Australian market, he said, as some transport firms had expressed concern about electric vehicle range.

“In Australia, the landscape is very different because we are a huge country, distances are very large, and dynamic wireless power transfer is something very attractive for the future of transport,” he said.

“When we implement this project, it will also be an answer to (charging) lightweight cars.”

Prof Seyedmahmoudian, who will work on the project with colleagues Saad Mekhilef and Alex Stojcevski, said the $3 million, three-year grant from the federal government’s Co-operative Research Centres Projects program would be boosted by support from a range of firms including the Australian Research Board, Siemens, SEA Electric, and Ace Infrastructure.

The project was one of 21 research initiatives to receive funding in the latest round of government grants, which Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic said could create “new business opportunities and secure, well-paid jobs”.

“Great ideas create great products, which create great jobs,” he said.