Pizza, pasta, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Verdi, Dante, Paolo Rossi, Frankie Dettori, Nutella, Pavarotti, Chianti, Ferrari, Fiat, Lamborghini and Gino D’acampo. It’s fair to say that the Italians have contributed quite a fair bit to world culture (classical and popular). So what contributions are they making to the world of electric vehicles?
Okay, let’s start with the slightly uncomfortable bit. Italians are famous for their cars and their love of cars. However, Ferrari, for example, have made it clear in the past that they are very anti-electric cars. There are many born and bred petrol heads in the boot of Europe and there was (and still is in some cases) serious resistance to the inevitable change.
However, it is the Italians who have made possibly one of the most significant breakthroughs in automotive history. And it is all centred on electric vehicles. The road that charges your car while you drive on it is closer than ever before.
The Arena del Futuro in Brescia (near Milan) is the result of a collaboration between several very forward thinking groups. It is also possibly the best idea to come out of Italy since Marco Tardelli thought to himself “I might have a shot from here and see what happens” in the 1982 World Cup Final (he scored in case you wondered).
The full list of partners, led by Stellantis and Electreon, is a long one but includes IVECO, TIM, Roma Tre University and the University of Parma. It is a truly super collaboration between giants of car manufacturing, electronics and engineering.
Situated in a private area just off the A35 autostrada (the Italian motorway system), the Arena del Futuro is a 1,050 metre circuit that is powered by an electrical output of 1 Megawatt. The new Fiat 500 (electric of course) and the IVECO E-Way bus were chosen as the test vehicles for this circuit.
How Does it Actually Work?
Wizards gathered together, wands out, and cast a car charging spell on the track… Okay, that’s a massive lie. Although, there certainly is a fair amount of technical wizardry going on.
The real magic on the circuit comes from something called a Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer (DWPT) which charges the cars by transferring energy to a special receiver that is in the car itself. The tests carried out on the Fiat 500 and the IVECO vehicle have proven successful and the collaborators are now looking to expand the technology onto the public road system via toll roads (well, the electricity has to be paid for somehow).
Haven’t We Seen This Before?
In China they have already experimented with a 1km electric highway as well. So this is not a completely new concept. However, this is the first time we have seen the innovation presented in a way that is so close to a full cross-over to the general public.
Just How Significant Is This Development?
To say that this development has come at an important time in the electric vehicle revolution would be a huge understatement. There is a very good reason why TIME Magazine named this electric highway as one of the top 100 inventions of 2021.
As I am sure most of you will know, we are at a crucial juncture in the transition to an electric future. The sale of all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned in 2030, just 8 years from now, and there is a desperate push to get more people to make the switch to electric vehicles. One of the biggest challenges is to overcome the fears that people generally have regarding the transition.
The number one issue in the UK (it is different for other countries interestingly) is the charging infrastructure and range anxiety. There is a fear that there aren’t enough accessible public charge points, or that they will not have enough charge to reach their destination. The first of which is perhaps a valid worry. The UK is far behind where we need to be with public charge points before the transition, although it is definitely getting there.
What this collective has done is give hope to people that there will be a charging system in place that means that you will not need to charge your car up fully overnight and that you will be able to safely get to where you need to be.
Of course, those of us who are familiar with electric vehicles know what to expect and know that the vast majority of the fears are completely unfounded. However, as long as those fears persist, something needs to be done to counter them. The Italians have gone a long way to doing just that. And for this I say grazie mille.
* All information correct as of 09/02/2022.