Colorado DOT goal: build a road with a power coil to recharge electric commercial trucks

AASHTO Journal

Officials at the Colorado Department of Transportation are considering locations for a new-era infrastructure pilot project – one that could lead to more use of heavy-duty trucks that generate zero emissions of their own because they would be powered by electricity.

The idea: Build into a public road a power coil that specially-equipped electric vehicles could draw from to recharge as they are driving, so that the vehicles can maintain effective travel range for commercial operations without making frequent stops to recharge.

And the officials plan to make it happen soon. The Wall Street Journal reported that CDOT and infrastructure developer AECOM “are scouting potential sites, including busy roads near Denver International Airport, with a goal of launching in 2018.”

The story said the pilot project is thought to be the first of its kind in the United States. “It’s one of those, ‘if you build it, they will come’ things,” Peter Kozinski, director of Colorado’s RoadX program, told the Journal. RoadX is a CDOT program that uses technologies to ease congestion and improve safety.

Currently, CDOT says, development and widespread U.S. use of electric heavy-duty trucks is hampered by several things. To have enough power to keep the truck running long enough, big rigs need very large, heavy and high-cost battery packs that put the vehicle out of practical reach for many potential operators.

But according to CDOT, electric trucks could be built with smaller battery packs if the infrastructure could help replenish them to build more travel range between recharge stops.

RoadX officials believe that many of the fast-emerging “connected autonomous vehicles” – which will communicate with each other and drive themselves – will be electric vehicles. And “if EVs operated on a grid of inductive charging, range would not be an issue,” RoadX said in talking points supplied to the AASHTO Journal by CDOT.

In the inductive charging concept, electric power coils embedded in the pavement emit a charge that is absorbed by a receiving plate or coil mounted under the vehicle, which uses it to power the vehicle or charge the battery pack.

CDOT said RoadX reached agreement Dec. 6 with Aecom on a $200,000 “small task order” to plan the project, study corridor traffic opportunities and select a project site.

The Journal story said the Colorado project “is slated to begin construction by the end of 2017 and start testing by the end of 2018. Data collected during the testing phase will provide insight into how well the technology works under real-world conditions, the researchers said.”