Charging while driving? What does our electric vehicle future look like in Detroit?

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(WXYZ) — As the number of electric vehicles on the road continues to grow, the U.S. is still behind other countries in sales and in the number of public charging facilities.

China leads the world in EV development and sales followed by Europe and then the U.S.


The Detroit Big 3 are rolling out more new EVs over the next several years.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer made headlines this week at the Motor Bella auto show announcing she wants to lead the nation in developing technology to charge while driving. But can it be done, and at what cost?

"I’m proud to announce here at Motor Bella 2021 that Michigan is on track to deploy the first wireless charging on a public road in the country," said Governor Whitmer.

The announcement came days after the governor toured the new Ford F150 Lightening electric truck plant in Dearborn increasing production to meet demand.

The governor was asked by automotive writers why the Motor City and Michigan lag behind other states with EV charging stations.

"It's interesting because I do know a lot of people who have electric vehicles, they've been able to navigate, but it's ... not as ubiquitous as it needs to be and that's what our job is to do," she said.

It turns out, this technology has been in development in other countries. There's video (below) from four years ago out of New Zealand regarding a project with Qualcomm and 25 other partners. But the technology is still in development.

Indiana announced a partnership with a German start-up and Purdue University in July. But it is only to study it for now.

"We have budgeted and allocated about $478,000. That’s what we anticipate our specific research project will cost over the next couple of years," said Scott Manning, deputy chief of staff Indiana Department of Transportation.

Michigan's Department of Transportation will issue a request for proposals next week.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation & Travel Michigan was able to provide answers to the following questions:

  • After the RFP goes out, what is the timetable or deadline for replies? The RFP will be posted for approximately one month.
  • How much is going to be spent by the state on this development? We don’t have exact costs at this time as we are posting a request for proposals (RFP) that will include cost sharing requirements and opportunities. The RFP will be available on September 28th from MDOT.
  • Where is the money coming from? Funds will be made available as a result of repurposing the NAIAS Mobility Challenge funding.
  • Is this in the newly passed budget? No, these are not funds from the FY22 budget. They are repurposed from previous appropriations, as noted above.
  • What metrics will you be using to determine if this is viable? This project will allow the opportunity to understand how inductive charging will and can be incorporated into the infrastructure, identify potential challenges, determine associated costs end to end for this type of infrastructure, determine the charge the vehicles will get from the road or “pad” where the buses would stop to drop off/pick up. This will provide the opportunity for setting standards and specification for this type of infrastructure. The project will also provide the opportunity to better understand how the different vehicle types utilize the inductive charging and if there are differences that need to be taken into account for future planning.

"It's too early to really speak to what the cost would be to deploy this across, let's say 150, 200 miles of public highway. Our initial test will be looking at a quarter-mile so much smaller scale and again heavily focused on viability," said Manning regarding the Indiana project.

Viability includes on a major freeway with heavy traffic and heavy trucks.

And four seasons of weather, hot summers, and cold winters with ice and snow.

"We want to have that, that peace of mind and certainty about how this will perform on a public highway where we will see all different types of conditions and all different types of vehicle uses," said Manning.

At Motor Bella, EV cars are here for rides into the future.

"Cause that’s my big worry about if you get an electric car. I drive a lot. Do I have so stop all the time and charge it," said Cindy Huskey of Warren. There's a term for how she's feeling, it's called range anxiety.

And while the governor is likely running for reelection next year, her last campaign cycle talked about fixing the damn roads. How does this fit in?

"That’s a good question. I guess it’s going to take a little of both," said Doug Horner of Warren.

While viability is being studied, we may not have any answers for a year or two down the road.