Nadia Gkritza, professor of civil engineering at Purdue, is leading the study. (photo courtesy of Purdue University)

The Indiana Department of Transportation has teamed up with Purdue University to develop concrete pavement that allows drivers to wirelessly charge their electric vehicles while they’re driving. The project, currently in the research phase on the West Lafayette campus, involves magnetizable concrete developed by German startup Magment GmbH.

The project is part of the Advancing Sustainability through Power Infrastructure for Road Electrification, or ASPIRE, initiative, which is being funded by the National Science Foundation to develop charging technologies that can accelerate the adoption of EVs by eliminating barriers to charging access and range.

Nadia Gkritza, professor of civil engineering and agricultural and biological engineering at Purdue, is the ASPIRE campus director at Purdue and says the goal of the technology is to dispel the worries drivers have about how far they can go on a charge by bringing the charge to them.

“This technology specifically involves slabs made with magnetizable concrete and an embedded coil where a high-frequency current is circulated to generate a magnetic field,” Gkritza said. “Then, that field is picked up by a compatible coil in electric vehicles and converts it back to electricity, and that can power the motor directly or charge the battery.”

The project is still in the early phases of pavement testing, analysis and optimization research at the Joint Transportation Research Program at Purdue. Gkritza says they plan to move into Phase 3 next year.

“[That] phase of this project involves the construction of a quarter-mile-long test bed, which will test the concrete’s capacity to charge heavy-duty trucks at 200 kilowatts and above, and that’s the first kind of high-power, high-speed application of this technology, and it’s scheduled for summer 2023,” she said.

Before the project began, Purdue conducted a feasibility study that found the technology would not only create financial benefits for EV drivers, but also indirect benefits to the broader economy.

“We see communities that benefit from reduced pollution, improved air quality and quality of life, and there are specifically a lot of opportunities for economic development, specifically in rural areas or underserved areas where we see this technology as being complementary to EV charging stations,” said Gkritza.

Gkritza says wireless charging solutions have existed for a while, but they’re typically in a stationary setting. In 2020, Purdue and Magment partnered on such technology to power electric scooters. But the project with INDOT is a new technology.

“As part of ASPIRE, we have additional pilots that are underway,” she said. “We’ve seen growing interest in this technology from other states. In Florida, the Central Florida Expressway [Authority] plans to invest in the construction of a 1-mile test bed of wireless charging in motion technology west of Orlando, but those will be low-power applications. So, I have to say that the test and implementation of this high-power road charging technology that we are working on in Indiana is unique.”

Once the all three testing phases are complete, INDOT says it will use the technology to electrify a yet-to-be determined segment of interstate highway in Indiana.