Indiana DOT, Purdue collaborate on highway that charges EVs

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Dive Brief:

  • The Indiana Department of Transportation and Purdue University will develop the world’s first contactless wireless-charging concrete highway segment to recharge vehicles while they drive, according to March 27 announcements from the university and the transit agency. German startup Magment GmbH developed a specialized magnetizable concrete that will help produce the charge.
  • Phases 1 and 2 of the project, which kicked off construction on April 1, will feature pavement testing, analysis and optimization research conducted by the Joint Transportation Research Program at Purdue’s West Lafayette campus. 
  • In phase 3, the state DOT will build a quarter-mile-long testbed where engineers will test the concrete’s capacity to charge heavy trucks at 200 kilowatts and above. DC fast chargers that vehicles plug into in parking lots and rest areas usually operate within a range of 50 to 350 kilowatts, according to U.S. DOT. 

Dive Insight:

The Indiana DOT tapped Clinton, Indiana-based White Construction to build the pilot testbed on U.S. 231/U.S. 52 between Cumberland Avenue and Lindberg Road in West Lafayette, according to the agency.

The technology Purdue is developing would enable highway pavement to recharge electric vehicles similar to how some newer smartphones can take a charge via magnetic fields, per the university. Purdue eventually hopes to electrify a section of an Indiana interstate in the next four to five years. 

The project is part of the Advancing Sustainability through Power Infrastructure for Road Electrification Initiative, an Engineering Research Center. The designation is for programs that bolster innovation with the potential for profound societal impacts, according to the National Science Foundation. 

The ASPIRE initiative, broadly, is a collaboration between universities, government laboratories, businesses and other stakeholders to develop charging technologies that will help electrify vehicles of all sizes.

“As electric vehicles become more widely used, demand for reliable, convenient charging infrastructure continues to grow, and the need to innovate is clear,” said Joe McGuinness, the state’s transportation agency commissioner, in the release. 

Electric vehicles are high in the mind of the construction industry right now — specifically, the plants that produce them. 

Even as automakers have said demand for EVs has waned in 2024, construction of factories that will build them or their components for years to come has continued unabated.  Electrical machinery construction, which includes EV battery plants, hit $35.2 billion in 2023, according to Dodge Construction Network, which translates to about 47% of overall manufacturing construction. 

Construction of Indiana DOT’s and Purdue’s pilot charging roadway project is slated for completion in 2025.

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