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EU Urban Mobility Observatory
News article13 June 20184 min read

‘Electric roads’, innovative pilot projects launched in Sweden and the Netherlands

April and May 2018 saw the inauguration of two innovative pilot projects on the ‘electrification of roads’. Both could help support the transition to carbon neutral transport. While one project attempts to generate clean energy through a photovoltaic road surface, the other aims to provide electric power and recharge vehicles during their journey.

Solar road in the province of Utrecht
On the 24 May 2018, a new trial site was opened in the province of Utrecht to test a new ‘solar road’. Solar panels have been integrated into the road surface on a stretch of the N401 road to supply clean, renewable energy, under all types of vehicle traffic.

The photovoltaic road surface, called ‘Wattway’, has been developed in France and is now being tested on a well-used road. Regional Minister for Mobility, Dennis Straat said: “As a province we like to provide space and opportunities to innovative developments, sustainability and to the cooperation with the market. That is why we offer a piece of provincial road and money for a test with solar panels. The test should show whether the solar panels function properly on a with heavy traffic. With a positive result, the province can apply this sustainable form of energy in more places.”

The use of solar panels on roads could make an important contribution to the generation of sustainable energy and the sustainability of infrastructure. Its designers estimate that a one-kilometre stretch of road paved with ‘Wattway’ would be able provide enough electricity to power public lighting in a city of 5,000 inhabitants. An additional advantage is that the landscape is not affected.

Its real life efficiency and applicability are now being tested in a two year pilot on a small stretch of the busy provincial road N401, where more than 10,000 cars and trucks run daily. It is also being investigated whether the solar panel mat will lead to a need for less maintenance on the asphalt and whether it will be possible in the future to heat the road in an energy-neutral way, which could reduce the cost of winter servicing.

While the pilot on the N401 in the Netherlands aims to generate clean energy, almost 1,500 kilometres north in Arlanda, Sweden, another innovative pilot was recently inaugurated, which aims to provide energy to vehicle while driving.

April 2018 saw the inauguration of another innovative pilot project: eRoadArlanda. It concerns a Swedish innovation and the first road of its kind to allow both commercial and passenger vehicles to be recharged while driving.

The goal of the project is to generate knowledge, experience and data that is conducive to the creation of a platform for the electrification of larger transport routes in Sweden. It is part of the Swedish Transport Administration’s pre-commercial procurement of innovation.

Tomas Eneroth, Swedish Minister for Infrastructure, stated on social media: “It is good for Sweden that we are at the forefront of road electrification and smart transport solutions. This means that we have the opportunity to achieve our high ambitions of fossil fuel freedom, but also provide advantages for Swedish transport industry and Swedish industry.”

The test track is located on a ten-kilometre section of Road 893 between Arlanda Cargo Terminal and the Rosersberg logistics area outside Stockholm, of which two kilometres have been electrified. The electrified road works by transferring energy to the vehicle from a rail in the road through a movable arm. The arm detects the location of the rail in the road and as long as the vehicle is above the rail, the contact will be in a lowered position. When a vehicle stops, the current is disconnected. The system is able to calculate the vehicle’s energy consumption, which enables electricity costs to be debited per vehicle and user.

The electrified road is currently used by electric trucks that were developed as part of the project and used by PostNord. However, according to the eRoadArlanda consortium that is behind the project, both current vehicles and roads could be adapted to take advantage of the technology. Preliminary plans have been developed for the roll-out across Sweden’s main road network. It has been estimated that electrifying approximately 20,000 kilometres of Sweden´s highways in this way could be sufficient. In Sweden, the distance between two highways is never more than 45 kilometres, which electric vehicles could easily cover on battery power.

It is estimated that two-thirds of truck transportation in Sweden could be carried out electrified roads by 2030, which would reduce energy consumption by approximately 10 TWh, corresponding to three million tons of fuel. This would result in a reduction of fossil emissions by 80 to 90 percent.

The Swedish Road and Transport Agency's National Plan for Electric Roads, published in November 2017, envisages starting by electrifying the 1,365 km triangle linking Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg which is responsible for 70 percent of heavy goods traffic in the country.
However, first the Agency is planning a longer pilot project of between 20km and 30km, which will be installed in about two to three years. This longer pilot would also lead to an increase in the technology readiness level, including the demonstration of business models, payment systems, services, etc., which currently are not included in the current pilot project.

Find out more about wattwaybycolas

About the eRoadArlanda project


Publication date
13 June 2018
  • Clean and energy-efficient vehicles
  • Policy and research
  • Europe-wide