Michigan Plans to Build First U.S. Road Outfitted for Wireless EV Charging

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at the Motor Bella auto show, September 21, 2021.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer at the Motor Bella auto show, September 21, 2021. The Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan is planning to build the first public road in the United States where electric vehicles can charge wirelessly while driving, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday at the Motor Bella auto show in Pontiac.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Next week, the state Department of Transportation will issue a formal request for proposals to design, test, and implement wireless charging infrastructure on one mile of road in Wayne, Oakland, or Macomb counties. It’s not yet clear how the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot would operate or when it would be unveiled.

A research project in Indiana will use magnetizable concrete to allow wireless charging on a quarter-mile stretch of private road. Coils embedded in the road will convey electricity to cars outfitted with coils of their own, operating much like the wireless charging pads used to juice up smartphones. Wireless charging technology has already been tested in France, Sweden, and elsewhere. When scaled up, it could accelerate EV adoption by making it easier for drivers to refuel.

The Indiana project will begin testing on a public road in one to two years, Scott Manning, an Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson, told the Detroit Free Press. The Michigan proposal will begin with the public road phase.

“We’re in the midst of the most significant shift in the automotive industry since the Model T rolled off the assembly line more than a century ago,” Trevor Pawl, chief mobility officer with Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, said in a statement. “This electrified roadway has the potential to accelerate autonomous vehicles at scale and turn our streets into safe, sustainable, accessible and shared transportation platforms.”