Plans to try out emerging wireless electric vehicle fast-charging technology in Norway have stalled because automakers haven’t got any cars that can use the system.

A pilot project, being carried out by Nordic power company Fortum on behalf of the city of Oslo, was announced in March and was intended to allow taxis to charge up while waiting at taxi stands.

But Ole Gudbrann Hempel, head of Fortum's public charging network in Norway, told GTM that start of construction has been delayed until spring 2020 due to more time-consuming discussions with EV manufacturers than anticipated.

“The project is still not up and running,” he said. “We haven’t built anything. To be frank, we’ve not really had the traction we wished we would have, and it’s mostly due to the lack of commitment from any manufacturer.”

Fortum is seeing a strong level of interest in the project from EV manufacturers, Hempel said. Norway's capital city remains committed to the project, and Fortum’s March announcement has led to interest from other cities around the world.

Eliminating "downtime" for drivers

Although it would be possible to carry out the pilot using specially procured vehicles, Hempel said the project partners had agreed early on that it would only be worthwhile using production EVs, to ensure the experience could be replicated elsewhere.

The project partners have had discussions with numerous carmakers, he said, and the level of interest is high. But Hempel said he has the impression many vehicle makers are simply too busy working on standard-issue EVs to worry about integrating wireless charging right now.

This state of affairs is a setback for what on the surface looks like a promising technology. Fortum was planning to install 75-kilowatt fast-charging units supplied by Momentum Dynamics, a U.S. company.

These would begin charging the EV batteries as soon as the vehicle was properly aligned on top of a given section of road. Momentum Dynamics has perfected the charging system to make it safe, said Hempel.

Although the powerful magnetic field formed between the charging plate and the vehicle would very quickly heat up any metal object, it is concentrated into a very tight beam and surrounded by a metal detector to cut the charging process if, say, a can rolled under the car.

Topping up (Credit: Momentum Dynamics)

Momentum Dynamics is working to add a tissue detector, to further protect against harm to humans or animals. The wireless chargers would have an efficiency of up to around 94 percent, which is comparable to plugging into a wall socket, Hempel said.

The technology is currently about 20 percent more expensive than traditional charging points, working out to around €30,000 ($34,000) per point, he said. “The cost is not really the issue,” he commented.

Oslo is keen on the wireless charging concept as a means to encourage taxi drivers to move to EVs. Although EV adoption in Norway is the highest in the world, taxi drivers have remained wary of ditching their gas-guzzlers.

Partly this is thought to be because taxi drivers worry about having to take time out from their shifts to recharge EV batteries. A 10-minute wireless charge at a taxi stand would not keep an EV running forever, but it would at least give the driver a handy range extension, said Hempel.

Recharging on the go

While the Oslo pilot planned to focus on stationary charging, which is already available to EV owners, there is also growing interest in an experimental technology that could allow vehicles to be charged while in motion.

The value of this dynamic charging technology would depend on how quickly it could charge a car, said Hempel. Adding dynamic charging to roads would increase the already-heavy road-building cost by around 10 percent, he said.

And to get a 10-kilowatt charge from a 10-kilowatt dynamic charging system, with vehicles traveling at 100 kilometers per hour, you would need to pave 100 kilometers of road. “That’s a huge cost,” Hempel commented.

“If you get the power up to 50 kilowatts, you only need to build 25 kilometers. That brings the cost down significantly.”

But getting to that point could take some time, given auto manufacturing timeframes. “We already have a chicken-and-egg situation for conventional charging infrastructure,” said Milan Thakore, a Wood Mackenzie research analyst.

“Installing wireless charging on roads would require the assumption that automakers will implement the technology into their upcoming EV models. This is something we're not seeing, particularly when bringing down vehicle costs is a priority.”