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Sparks

Detroit Is About to Test the Bejeezus Out of Wireless EV Charging

The dream of charging your car as you drive faces the reality of a Michigan winter.

A cord as a road.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images, Tesla

One block of Detroit’s hip Corktown neighborhood is now the home to the nation's first inductive charging roadway, allowing specially-equipped vehicles to charge while on the move.

The electric road system is being deployed two years after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the pilot program. A joint project between the state’s Department of Transportation, Detroit, and the company that developed and installed the technology, Electreon, the quarter-mile stretch of road is packed with copper coils that allow EVs equipped with Electreon’s magnetic receivers to wirelessly charge while driving, idling, or parked. Just as importantly, it’s safe for pedestrians, animals, and other vehicles.

The stretch of 14th Street the city picked for the test was also no accident; it’s directly in front of Michigan Central, Detroit's innovation and technology hub that includes everything from autonomous vehicle developers to drone deployments. The symbolism is obvious.

Yet Electreon — a company that has partnered with other cities in Europe and its home country of Israel — might be interested in the area for more practical reasons. It’s just really hard to maintain roads in Michigan.

Concrete and pavement is pummeled year-round with excessive moisture that seeps into cracks, contracting and expanding to break apart roads from the inside. And that’s before you throw in metro traffic, tractor trailers, and the thousands of pounds of salt scattered on the road that keeps ice at bay and accelerates rust.

If that sounds like an awful place to test copper-embedded roadways and external magnetic receivers, maybe that’s the point. If wireless charging can make it in Detroit, it can make it anywhere.

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Damon Lavrinc profile image

Damon Lavrinc

Damon Lavrinc is a freelance writer and industrial design student focused on the future of transportation. A former driving instructor and communications professional, Damon is the co-founder of the Autonocast and led transportation technology coverage at WIRED, Jalopnik, and other outlets.

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