Driving to the Future
27 / 12 / 2018
Thinking Outside the Box
The startup company ElectRoad was founded three years ago by two partners and entrepreneurs, Oren Ezer and Hanan Rumbak. Aside being hard-core entrepreneurs, the two also share a common philosophy that seeks to improve our quality of life, reduce air pollution and create a better world for people and animals alike. In Ezer's words: "The company was founded with the un-cynical objective of improving the world – even if only by a fraction."
Ezer describes the founding of ElectRoad: "Hanan had the original idea on which the company is based. We set out on the assumption that the entry of electric vehicles is only a matter of time and that the existing solutions for improving batteries are not perfect. We decided that instead of improving existing solutions, we will take the problem, the battery, out of the vehicle – in other words, we will transfer the energy from the road to the moving vehicle via a wireless system. Reducing energy source within the vehicle will reduce weight, costs and eliminate the concern regarding the vehicle's range when the energy is provided by the air transformer."
"The basis for this technology was developed more than a century ago by Nikola Tesla. The concept is to use a transformer with the air serving as a medium for transmission. One coil is laid beneath the asphalt, the second is placed in the bottom of the vehicle and the technology transfers the energy from the coil under the road to the vehicle. The converter unit installed by the roadside, is connected at one end to the national electricity grid, converts the energy to the appropriate form for the air transformer and then transfers it to the coils installed under the traffic lane. In other words, we do not produce energy, rather transfer it to the coil that transfers energy to the vehicle."
"We are talking about 40-centimeter diameter copper coils, placed one after another along the traffic lane's center. The coils are positioned in the middle of the traffic lane and only transfer energy to electric vehicles with the appropriate receiver - when non-electric vehicles travel on the lane, the coil is inactive. The vehicle will also have a small energy source of its own in order to enable it to overtake traffic or travel in a lane without our technology. We believe in evolution, not revolution. In other words, gradual change. Initially, the vehicle will contain a certain-sized battery but, as we spread out the infrastructure, the battery size will decrease."
"Our business model is still in the consolidation stage. We believe in a 'win-win' model for everyone, primarily for the public. The model will probably vary from one place to another according to partner and local government. The business model is comprised of project management, supplying the technology, a billing system that we provide, and a wealth of information that will be accumulated in the system."
"The interesting thing about our solution is that embedding it in the road is quick in comparison to other infrastructure solutions. There is no need to rebuild all the roads. Its implementation is a matter of a few days with the work performed only at night in order to prevent disruptions to daily traffic. The coil is placed just 7 centimeters under the road. Connecting the receiver coil in the vehicle does not require fundamental alterations and is possible in any type of existing electric vehicle. No new mechanisms need to be developed. The unit that sits at the side of the road, that is connected to the electricity grid, communicates with the vehicles in real time and knows when to activate the coils under the asphalt according to the vehicle's location."
"Happily, our timing is superb – there is already an international standard for wireless charging to which we are party and adhering to."
Where do you stand today?
"We are currently working on demonstrating the complete system. We will initially demonstrate it on an electric car and then on a bus platform. In recent weeks, we have signed a strategic investment agreement with the 'Dan' Corporation, one of the country's leading public transport operators that provides service to hundreds of thousands of passengers daily. 'Dan' is an immensely important strategic partner, on the one hand operating public transport while on the other, a partner in a company that develops super-capacitor-based electric buses. I presume that we will soon begin joint work with them on the final system."
"We aspire to demonstrate the system in Israel – not abroad. To build an established Israeli company with Israeli pride and only then to distribute the technology overseas. Many ask why we insist on remaining in Israel with this technology. I actually think it's an advantage. There is an openness to innovation here, even a hunger for it: the government and the Innovation Authority (formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist) and all the relevant ministries help us in establishing contacts with other entities in Israel, with international companies in the transportation field, and with financial assistance."
"The Innovation Authority's support is extremely important. When you establish a software (application), you can progress with the support of 'angels' and venture capital funds, however with a company such as ours - that operates in a significant infrastructure-associated field and that requires involvement of the government, municipalities and the electric company - it's difficult to imagine success without the Innovation Authority."
"Initially, we received support from the Authority via the 'Capital Nature' technological incubator. We subsequently received further support from the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Energy and we are presently waiting for critical assistance from the Program for Encouraging Investments in the Field of Alternative Fuels for Transportation. This support is enormously important and the Authority is actually taking a risk with us. This assists in strengthening the eco-system in Israel by supporting investors and encouraging investment in this field. When we succeed – the Authority will have a large part in our success."
"Our vision is of a real and sustainable solution. If you look at the future transportation market, I am sure that it will be based on an electric vehicle but sincerely hope that the solution will not rely solely on batteries – it is difficult to imagine what we will do with tens of thousands of tons of batteries, some of which are non-recyclable. Our vision is that, already in the near future, most energy will come from renewable energy sources such as solar energy, wind, harvesting energy from ocean waves and of course, natural gas. All this energy will be managed by the electric companies away from the city centers, and will be provided via the electricity grid from where it will set the transportation in motion via our infrastructure."
"This way, the vehicle will be capable of travelling 24/7 without stopping for refueling or recharging and there will be no need for allocating special areas for gas and recharging stations. When the autonomous vehicle arrives, the number of parking lots in the city will be dramatically reduced. These areas can then all be allocated to green parks. It will happen very quickly. I assume that it will start to happen mainly in the public transport market within the next ten years, with specially designated autonomous vehicles, and will then flow over into private transportation. I believe that we'll get there in ten years."
Gil Shaki, Senior Director Energy, Cleantech, Infrastructure & Transportation at the Israel Innovation Authority: "The subject of hoarding energy sources and energy derived from alternatives to fuel is one of the most complex challenges facing the automotive industry. The State of Israel has undertaken to focus its attention in this area. In recent years the Innovation Authority supported the efforts of Israeli industry and academia to develop and apply groundbreaking solutions out of the belief that some will reach technological and commercial fruition in the near future and will further assist in changing the face of the global automotive industry."