Lund takes the electric road
In the Kraftring area in Örtofta, just north of Lund, lies a rail on the asphalt next to the parking lot. Here, inventor Dan Zethraeus and his team at Elonroad, together with Lund University, have built a test road for a truly futuristic invention - cars that can be charged on the go.
The principle is a bit like a classic toy car. An electric vehicle is equipped with three contacts attached to its underside. On the road is a rail that provides electricity. As the vehicle drives along the road and the contacts pass over the rail, the vehicle’s battery is charged. This not only saves time but also means that electric vehicles such as cars, trucks and buses require significantly less battery power – making the vehicles lighter and more environmentally friendly. The rail can also be used to charge stationary vehicles, such as buses or garbage trucks that make longer stops during their rounds.
"Using less battery power is both environmental and economical," says Dan Zethraeus from Elonroad. "The community will benefit from a charging infrastructure where everyone can charge."
Zethraeus was once a director and scriptwriter for the popular Christmas calendar "Mystery on Greveholm". In addition to television work, he has always maintained the technical interest he gained in high school.
"I worked for SVT for 20 years, but when work on the electric road became too exciting, I gave notice," says Dan. "I've gone from one fun thing to another and do not regret it. There is always the possibility of making TV again. I am driven by desire to invent combined with a feeling of doing something for the environment for my descendants. I have driven a car since I was 18 years old and this is my way of remedying that."
Around Europe, there are experiments with electricity in overhead lines, vehicles that charge their batteries overnight, and vehicles that get charging from electric roads. The advantage of having rails on the roadway instead of in the air is that the solution becomes vehicle-independent. Overhead lines require tall vehicles to reach, whereas charging from the road is easy to apply to different types of vehicles. Some projects with electric roads use longer segments of about 20 meters. Elonroad’s rails are built in shorter segments of about one meter. The rails generate current one bit at a time, which means that the solution works well in an urban environment. The segments also detect when there is a vehicle coming, so it is not dangerous for pedestrians or animals to cross the rails.
"It feels like we at Elonroad have an effective solution that is probably one of the cheaper ones," says Dan. "All calculations so far point to the fact that electric roads for road transport are profitable. Sweden has entered into an agreement with Germany on joint research on electric roads. It is getting attention, in that many people are interested and we are getting help from the authorities. "
In January 2018, Lund politicians Anders Almgren (S) and Christer Wallin (M), among others, tried out the 130-meter test track in Örtofta.
"This is like many other really good ideas - you wonder why nobody has done it before," says Anders Almgren (S), chairman of the municipal council. "Lund is a small enough city to be able to test things here. We are open to using the city as a test bed."
Frequently asked questions usually concern how the rails work in winter conditions and if roads with rails can be plowed. Special snowplows can be driven over rails and the rails emit some heat so they stay a little warm, but they can be slippery for motorcycles to drive over when they are damp.
Elonroad has already received financial support for the electric road from the Swedish Energy Agency and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. In the spring, Elonroad will apply for contributions from the Swedish Transport Administration to continue development. Lund University, Future by Lund, Kraftringen and Coman Bus also assist and support Elonroad.
- Dan Zethraeus and Per Löfberg at Elonroad, together with Lund University, have built a 130-meter-long electric road with charging rails in Örtofta, north of Lund. The road allows electric vehicles to be charged while driving.