Tel Aviv aims to be the world’s first city to introduce smart electric roads

Technology brings miracles into people’s lives. As famed British science fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

And, currently, electric roads do seem like magic to a world that has yet to see them at work.  Electric roads, eHighways or Electric Road Systems (ERS), are defined as systems that provide the opportunity to transfer power between a vehicle and the road, when the vehicle is travelling on the road; this could well become the world’s next big thing in transportation.

Electric roads have yet not exactly leaped onto the infrastructure of countries. Rather, they are just being introduced as a viable clean energy public transportation option.

As the electric road technology unfolds on the global infrastructure platform, Tel Aviv, in Israel, aims to be the world’s first city to roll out smart electric roads. In fact, as Oren Ezer, CEO and founding partner of Israeli technology company, ElectReon, said, Tel Aviv is the first city in the world to use the technology on a large scale, for a public route.

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, recently announced a pilot project, funded by public and private funds, to build wireless electric roads that can charge and power public transportation in the city. The project involves a route of about 1.2 miles, from Tel Aviv University Railway station to Klatzkin Terminal in Ramat Aviv. The electric road itself will be around 0.37 miles long, which amounts close to half a mile.

The pilot project which is due to launch in a few months, is a collaboration between the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, and two companies – ElectReon, which is developing the technology to charge moving electric vehicles, and the Dan Bus Company, which is providing buses for the project.

ElectReon explains the technology governing electric roads, as a system of copper coils laid beneath the asphalt to transfer energy from the electricity grid to the road, while, on the other hand, managing the units and communication with approaching vehicles, via cloud technology. Receivers installed on the vehicle floor will directly transmit energy to the engine and the battery, while the vehicles are on the go. The technology will allow for smaller batteries on electric buses, thus opening up more space for passengers.

According to ElectReon, the technology allows electric vehicles to travel over roads without needing to recharge batteries. In fact, electric roads allow for significantly lower battery capacity in vehicles and require fewer fast-charging stations.  Meital Lehavi, the deputy mayor for transportation at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality, said, “Relying on direct charging of vehicles from the road itself will remove the need to establish charging stations or be operationally bound to terminals.” If correctly maintained, the electric roads will have an estimated technical lifespan of about 40 years.

Review of these benefits for transportation, is to echo Indian business magnate, N. R. Narayana Murthy’s words, “Engineering or technology is all about using the power of science to make life better for people, to reduce cost, to improve comfort, to improve productivity.”

Moreover, the pilot project, if successful, will lead the way for a bigger program envisioned by the city, to push people to use vehicles that reduce emissions and, consequently, lessen air pollution. As leading American ecologist, Barry Commoner, said, “Environmental pollution is an incurable disease. It can only be prevented.”  Tel Aviv city officials believe a successful electric road project will impact strongly on their long-term goals to reduce environmental pollution. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai said, “Our strategic action plan to prepare for climate change has placed the fight against pollution at the top of the municipality’s environmental agenda. Electric transportation will assist municipal efforts to reduce air pollution and noise, and assist the transition to green modes of transport.”

If the pilot project proves successful, the city plans to have a regular bus line on the electric road within two months. Moreover, the Tel Aviv municipality, in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation, intends expanding electric roads to more areas of the city’s road network, and broadening vehicle types traveling on those roads, to include public transit, distribution trucks, and private and autonomous vehicles.

Furthermore, by using the electric road infrastructure to charge the newly-included commercial vehicles such as delivery trucks, shuttles, and taxis, and, the project can improve the Return on Investment (ROI) on the infrastructure. It could also be an effective solution to the inevitable challenges that commercial fleet operators will face in finding the necessary charging stations and grid connection in congested cities. Therefore, the electric road technology is expected to be an incredible gamechanger for a world leaping into an era of advanced automotive technology, while facing the enormous challenges of fossil fuel-induced environmental pollution.

ElectReon CEO, Oren Ezer, said, “The pilot will be a display window to the world, showcasing the ability to charge urban public transportation.”

Thus, Israel is in the process of introducing an advanced sustainable transportation solution to the world. As American author Sidney Sheldon aptly said, “Try to leave the earth a better place than when you arrived.”

About the Author
Scientist turned techie. Founder at Neliti & Reputio. Interested in sharing lessons learnt from Tel Aviv's bustling technology ecosystem.
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