Australia, Charging Stations, Electric Trucks, Industry Issues, Transport Features, Transport News

How wireless charging can increase electric heavy vehicle uptake in Australia

Swinburne University says its charging solution could hold the key to unlocking heavy vehicle uptake as Australia’s transport industry embraces decarbonisation

With Australia introducing new vehicle efficiency standards in February, original equipment manufacturers are starting to offer more electric trucks. 

Global manufacturer Volvo has started to introduce its electric truck range while Isuzu also intends to introduce electric trucks into its Australian suite. With a range of electric trucks set to arrive in Australia in the near future, operators such as Followmont Transport and Centurion Transport have launched electric truck trials to put the technology to the test on local roads.  

While some of these operators are introducing charging stations at their depots to provide the infrastructure needed for electric trucks, Swinburne University’s New Energy Research Group has taken a different approach with the development of an Australian-first dynamic wireless charging solution. 

Project leader and Swinburne professor Mehdi Seyedmahmoudian says the device’s wireless capabilities could see more of these electric heavy vehicles be introduced into fleets. 

“The platform that we’re developing is going to be fully deployed onto Australian roads and will be retrofittable into existing EVs,” Seyedmahmoudian told ATN. 

Meanwhile, Israel-based company Electreon is developing wireless charging products. Among its solutions is implementing wireless charging for trucks operated by Dutch auto manufacturer GINAF along with the development of a wireless charging station in Israel.  

 Seyedmahmoudian says the dynamic charging solution Swinburne is developing means electric trucks are charged more consistently compared to the static devices being developed by these global companies. 

The development phase has presented unique challenges for Swinburne’s research group. The Swinburne University team has worked to determine the amount of energy required for the chargers while also working to provide enough separation between the vehicle and the ground. Seyedmahmoudian says that, even if 100kms of transmission lines were built, the system still wouldn’t have enough energy to charge the heavy vehicles and its wireless units.  

While the Swinburne University team has worked through these challenges, Seyedmahmoudian says the device’s charging capabilities could unlock different opportunities for the heavy vehicle industry. Among these benefits are the potential for heavy vehicles to not have to stop at charging stations, creating less congestion at critical infrastructure points. Swinburne University says Australia could save $324 billion by 2030 with the device’s introduction. 

“Making it wireless means that you can not only charge them more regularly, but also reduce the battery size of heavy-duty vehicles,” Seyedmahmoudian says. 

The project has been provided a $3 million boost by the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects grant scheme. Seyedmahmoudian says the device’s development may not have happened without the investment. 

“It’s also brought the project partners together – these collaborators can provide us with the facilities we need to test the device’s capabilities,” Seyedmahmoudian says. 

Its collaborators include SEA Electric, Siemens, the Australian Road Research Board, Siemens, Fleet Plant Hire, Net Zero Stack, ACE Infrastructure and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. 

Seyedmahmoudian says with wireless charging station solutions already being developed, the group’s focus has now turned to making the device available on heavy vehicle routes within the next three years. 

“The overall concept of the project has now been developed,” Seyedmahmoudian says. 

“Now what we’re looking to do is scale it up for heavy vehicles and focus on the commercial implementation of the device.” 

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