By the Blouin News Technology staff

Paving the way for ‘electric’ highways in Europe

by in Green Tech.

Getty Images

Getty Images

The U.K. government has revealed that it will be testing “electric highways” this year, aimed at enabling electric and hybrid vehicles to charge while driving and lessen the need for drivers to stop and charge the car batteries. The off-road trials of the technology needed to power electric and hybrid vehicles on England’s major roads have been proposed by Highways England, a government-owned company in charge of managing the country’s core road network.

Equipment installed underneath the roadways will connect to vehicles fitted with wireless technology. The trials are expected to last for approximately 18 months and Highways England says on-road testing could be in the future. The company’s Chief Highways Engineer Mike Wilson said in a statement:

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.

Indeed, the U.K. has been making solid headway with its electric vehicle market, while the rest of Europe is a mixed bag. Despite reports in June that the European electric vehicle market has surpassed the American one for the first time this year, there is still a long way to go for the burgeoning industry. Viable charging highways would be a key step, and many see the U.K.’s moves in this regard vital for its plunging ahead in electric vehicle sales and use in competition with the continent. As Blouin News reported in late July, the Netherlands has made similar moves. For example, the European Commission announced that it is allocating $36 million to support the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the Netherlands, testing road structure made from recycled plastic.

A recent Forbes report details that western Europe’s electric car sales are only being kept afloat by government subsidies — a troubling piece of information. While electric car sales in western Europe totaled 72,201 in the first half of 2015 — up from 40,746 in the same period of 2014 — sales themselves pale in comparison to the total car sales in Western Europe in the first half of this year: 6.4 million. And automotive intelligence firm Glass’s reported in mid-July that three electric cars sold in Europe are among the worst first-year depreciators: The Renault Fluence, Citroen C-Zero and Nissan LEAF E all lost more than three-quarters of their value after covering 12,000 miles during the last 12 months.

While the electric car scene is still anyone’s game at this point, changing roadway structure would be a significant step toward encouraging consumers. The technology of the U.K.’s tests will be a pivotal element in setting the stage for what could be a booming market in the country.