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‘Electric highway’ trials to start this year

11 Aug 15 Highways England is planning to trial new technology later this year that will enable electric and hybrid vehicles to automatically recharge as they drive along major roads and motorways.

With a lack of engine charging points around the country seen as a barrier to consumer take-up of electric vehicle technology, Highways England considers so-called ‘electric highways’ as a possible future for motor transport.  

Ultimately, every motorway and trunk road could be dug up to have ‘dynamic wireless power transfer’ technology buried underneath them.

Off-road trials of the technology will take place later this year following the completion of a feasibility study commissioned by Highways England. They will test how the technology would work safely and effectively on the country’s motorways and major A roads, allowing drivers of ultra-low emission vehicles to travel long distances without needing to stop and charge the car’s battery.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said: “The potential to recharge low emission vehicles on the move offers exciting possibilities. The government is already committing £500m over the next five years to keep Britain at the forefront of this technology, which will help boost jobs and growth in the sector. As this study shows, we continue to explore options on how to improve journeys and make low-emission vehicles accessible to families and businesses.”

Highways England chief highways engineer Mike Wilson said: “Vehicle technologies are advancing at an ever increasing pace and we’re committed to supporting the growth of ultra-low emissions vehicles on our England’s motorways and major A roads.

“The off-road trials of wireless power technology will help to create a more sustainable road network for England and open up new opportunities for businesses that transport goods across the country.”

The trials are expected to begin later this year following the completion of a procurement process. The trials will involve fitting vehicles with wireless technology and testing the equipment, installed underneath the road, to replicate motorway conditions. Full details of the trials will be publicised when a contractor has been selected.

The trials are expected to last for approximately 18 months and, subject to the results, could be followed by on road trials.

As well as investigating the potential to install technology to wirelessly power ultra-low efficient vehicles, Highways England is also committed in the longer-term to installing plug-in charging points every 20 miles on the motorway network as part of the government’s road investment strategy.

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