Michigan to build nation's first electrified road to wirelessly charge EVs, Whitmer says

·3 min read

Imagine being able to charge an electric vehicle without stopping to plug in.

It’s the kind of technology that could help ease worries like range anxiety and could really boost the transition to electric vehicles, and Michigan could have the first wireless charging infrastructure on a public road anywhere in the country.

It’s the idea behind a new initiative that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday morning as she helped open Motor Bella, this year’s alternative for the North American International Auto Show being held this week at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

A one-mile stretch of road somewhere in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties (in the Detroit area) will be picked to host the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot. The Michigan Department of Transportation is planning to issue a request for proposal on Sept. 28. It's not clear how the technology would work, how soon the pilot project would be operational or how much it might cost, although this type of advance has been discussed by experts as one possible future for EV charging.

"We're rebuilding infrastructure in Michigan. Orange barrels are everywhere. It's important that we're rebuilding, but we're doing it in a resilient way that supports advanced technology," Whitmer told reporters, noting that the wireless charging project is crucial to meeting the needs of fleets.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to the media as she tours Motor Bella at M1 Concourse in Pontiac Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to the media as she tours Motor Bella at M1 Concourse in Pontiac Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

In a statement later, Whitmer pointed to Michigan’s past as well as its future in describing the significance of the news.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure (that) will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” Whitmer said.

The potential to charge electric buses, shuttles and other vehicles on the road without having to stop could do more than just help with electric vehicle deployment, according to Trevor Pawl, chief mobility officer with the state's Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.

“This electrified roadway has the potential to accelerate autonomous vehicles at scale and turn our streets into safe, sustainable, accessible and shared transportation platforms,” Pawl said in a news release.

Whitmer’s announcement came during remarks as Motor Bella was opening. The event, although connected to Detroit’s auto shows of the past, is a significant departure from the show that used to be held downtown every January. There are vehicles on display, but the highlights are more experiential with various ride events.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer learns about the features in the F-150 Lightning from Ford's Dapo Adewusi at MOtor Bella in Pontiac on Tuesday.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer learns about the features in the F-150 Lightning from Ford's Dapo Adewusi at MOtor Bella in Pontiac on Tuesday.

Press and industry events are being held the next two days, and then the show opens to the public Thursday through Sunday. Go to www.motorbella.com for more information.

After the opening, Whitmer, along with Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, toured display areas set up by General Motors, Stellantis, Toyota and Ford, checking out various rides and learning about some cool features.

Whitmer sounded disappointed when an aide told her liability concerns would keep her off the dramatic Ford Bronco ride that features a Bronco rolling up a track that appeared to be lifted by hydraulics to simulate a large hill, part of the effort to show off the vehicle’s off-road chops.

At the Stellantis area, she also got a look at the new 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer, which is being built at the company’s Warren Truck Assembly. Hearing that the front seats in a model featuring the Blue Agave interior include a massage function, she said she “might just take a nap.”

She also let it be known that she’d wrecked her parents’ Wagoneer when she was 17, and unlike this bright white, modern version, it was, in fact, a woody.

Contact Eric D. Lawrence: elawrence@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence. Become a subscriber.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan to build first wireless EV charging road in US, Whitmer says

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