Tel Aviv-Jaffa aims to be world’s first city with network of recharging roads

City launches pilot project of futuristic Israeli technology that does away with need for charging stations, supplying a bus with power from under the asphalt as it travels along

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Illustration of an electric bus traveling along a stretch of Electreon smart road, recharging as it travels. (ElectReon screenshot)
Illustration of an electric bus traveling along a stretch of Electreon smart road, recharging as it travels. (ElectReon screenshot)

The Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality announced Monday that it is on track to become the first city in the world to roll out smart roads that can charge electric vehicles as they drive along, with a pilot project set to trial an electric public transportation system.

Tel Aviv’s pilot, due to start in a couple of months, will see a 600 meter (just under 2,000 foot) recharging stretch built under the two-kilometer (1.25 mile) bus route between the Tel Aviv University Railway Station and the Klatzkin Terminal in Ramat Aviv. The vehicle to be charged will be an electric bus with a special battery, the city said.

The technology comes from an Israeli company, ElectReon, based in the northern moshav of Beit Yannai.

In Sweden, ElectReon has installed a 1.6 kilometer (1 mile) electric stretch used by a bus and a truck on the 4.1 kilometer (2.5 mile) route between the airport and town center of Visby on Gotland Island.

At the end of this year, the company is set to install the first wireless electric road system in Germany, in Karlsruhe in the country’s southwest.

Laying ElectReon underground cables to turn a stretch of existing road into one that recharges electric vehicles as they drive along. (Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality)

If the Tel Aviv pilot is successful, more roads will be equipped with the below-surface technology, making Tel Aviv-Jaffa the first city in the world to widely roll out the technology. The municipality said it plans to examine adding other forms of transportation to the electric roads, such as distribution trucks and private and autonomous vehicles.

Aimed at reducing air pollution, the electric road does away with the need for recharging stations. According to ElectReon’s website, a system of copper coils is laid beneath the asphalt to transfer energy from the electricity grid to the road and to manage communication with approaching vehicles. Receivers are installed on the floor of the vehicles to transmit the energy directly to the engine and the battery while the vehicles are on the go. Communication with all management units and all registered vehicles is via cloud technology.

The system allows for smaller batteries on electric buses, releasing more room for passengers, utilizes existing roads, and saves time because vehicles do not have to stop to charge or refuel.

“Constructing electric roads in Tel Aviv-Jaffa will have a major impact,” a municipal statement said, “from improving air quality for the benefit of residents and visitors, to introducing an advanced transportation solution to the world that places the State of Israel as a global leader in the field.”

Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, said, “We are constantly working to reduce air pollution in the city, and our strategic action plan to prepare for climate change has placed the fight against pollution at the top of the municipality’s environmental agenda. If the pilot is successful, we will evaluate — together with the Transportation Ministry — its expansion to additional locations in the city.”

Oren Ezer, ElectReon CEO and founding partner, said, “This is a very important step in the implementation of electric road technology and we are delighted that the first electrified public route is being established in Tel Aviv — a global leader in the field of innovation and smart transportation.”

Spot the technology: ElectReon underground cables are invisible below the asphalt. (Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality)

In another step toward cutting air pollution, Huldai and Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel agreed in August to turn the city into a Low Emissions Zone.

During the first stage, an estimated 40,000 diesel vehicles (not including private cars) will be banned unless they have filters, the installation of which the Environment Ministry subsidizes, a joint statement said at the time.

At a later stage, restrictions will be tightened in various areas of the city to keep out close to two million vehicles that fail to meet advanced European pollution standards. An area such as this exists in central London.

In the more distant future, areas will be earmarked for electric vehicles only.

Fossil fuel-driven transportation is considered to be a leading cause of climate change.

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