Sweden Is Testing an Electric Road for Trucks

The road is part of the country’s plan to have all of its vehicles fossil fuel-free by 2030.

|
Jun 25 2016, 6:00pm

A truck drives on Sweden’s new electrified road. Image: Swedish Transport Administration

Sweden became one of the first countries in the world to host an electric road capable of powering heavy vehicles on Wednesday, the latest development in the country's ambitious plan to have all of its vehicles operating without fossil fuels by 2030.

The two-kilometer stretch of electric road was added to the E16, a transnational highway running through Northern Ireland, Norway and Sweden. It consists of electric lines suspended 17 feet above the pavement which feed 750 volts of electricity to the trucks' hybrid engine via a current conductor on the roof of the trucks, similar to the way a light rail works.

"Electric roads will bring us one step closer to fossil fuel-free transports and has the potential to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions," said Lena Erixon, the Director General of the Swedish Transport Administration. "This is one way of developing environmentally smart transports in the existing road network."

Although Sweden isn't the first to build an electric road, it is one of the first countries to pursue the technology in this form. Other countries investing in electric roads, such as the UK and South Korea, have opted for wireless solutions which involve placing an electric cable beneath the road and powering cars by way of the electromagnetic field generated by the cable.

Sweden is also giving the wireless solution a test run, but so far this technology has proven to be far more expensive and difficult to install than overhead cables. Still, overhead cables aren't perfect and present their own set of difficulties, as anyone who has ever watched a bus driver try to reconnect electric busses to their cables or struggle up a hill in San Francisco will already know.

Nevertheless, the Swedish Transport Administration is optimistic that its electric road will prove to be a viable technology on a large scale. It will be using the E16 stretch as a closed-off testbed for the technology through 2018, and hopes to put the infrastructure to use in actual traffic by next year.