Frequently Asked Questions

Electric vehicles already exist, and DC fast charging networks are being installed across the nation. What new contributions will ASPIRE provide?

This initial infrastructure helps support early adoption. However, it barely scratches the surface compared to the needs for widespread adoption. Electric vehicles are still too expensive for the broader public. Public charging has limited availability, can be expensive, takes too long, and existing solutions do not meet the needs of the trucking industry. ASPIRE researchers are working with automotive companies, electric utilities and transportation agencies to develop coordinated, cost-effective solutions suitable for large-scale deployment.

What would a new electrified transportation infrastructure look like?

We envision systems that provide a seamless charging experience and eliminate charging and range as barriers to electric vehicle use. Our efforts follow the theme of “bring the charge to the vehicle,” instead of “bring the vehicle to the charge.” This helps vehicles stay charged throughout the day and means drivers do not have to modify their travel plans around charging. Solutions include very fast, plugin charging (less than 15 minutes) and wireless charging technology integrated into parking structures and roadways that charge vehicles in motion. These systems are networked with the electric grid and traffic management systems and support connected, shared, and autonomous vehicles.

What does “Powered Infrastructure for Roadway Electrification” mean?

This part of the ASPIRE name means that we are committed to developing charging systems that support the transition of all vehicles to electric. We have a strong emphasis on shared public charging infrastructure, which supports all user groups and vehicle classes and reduces the cost of transportation.

Why develop wireless charging and smart powered roads?

These concepts represent a new way of thinking about a vehicle’s energy needs. When electric vehicles charge wirelessly on smart powered roads or powered parking stalls, they are connected to the electric grid more continuously. This is good for three reasons: First, electric cars can use smaller, inexpensive batteries that last the life of the vehicle. Second, it alleviates problems associated with peak electricity demand at charging stations. Third, it means drivers can skip the charging station. Smart powered roads unleash the benefits of continuous connectivity: low-cost vehicles and electricity, high productivity, and support of a modernized electric grid.

Do all roadways need to become smart powered roads? Are they safe?

Converting only a few percent of our paved roads would meet the needs of the vast majority of traffic, including our interstate highways and freight and commuter corridors. With our aging roads and electric grid in dire need of repair, now is the time to consider technology integration as we rebuild our critical infrastructure. Multiple safety systems ensure smart powered roads are safe for people, animals, and the environment.

When will we see smart powered roads in the United States?

ASPIRE researchers are actively involved in developing public-private partnerships for pilot deployments in Utah, our partner states, and across the nation. Pilot projects on public roads could be in operation in the U.S. within the next five years with broad deployment in the coming decades in alignment with planned roadway maintenance schedules. There is a pilot project currently underway on a public highway in Sweden, and other projects are being planned around the world.

How do these solutions and widespread adoption impact the electric grid?

Full electrification of all vehicles in the U.S. would roughly double the annual energy demand on the electric grid, and if not realized carefully, could result in significantly higher peak demand. High peak demand means high infrastructure upgrade costs and difficulty increasing renewable energy supply. The ASPIRE team is committed to close collaboration with utilities in pursuit of solutions that make vehicles a resource to the electric grid rather than a burden. Through managed connectivity and utility-scale public-private partnerships, widespread adoption of electric vehicles will support reduced electricity costs to all users, improved reliability, and reduced emissions.

Who pays for the electricity on smart powered roads?

It will be paid for by the users of the road and may be subsidized by communities to support air quality and public health. These long-life roads and their maintenance could be paid for by billing users a small fraction of their cost savings after converting from gasoline or diesel to electric. Smart powered roads represent a new revenue stream for roadway owners and operators and could result in safer, better maintained roads and bridges.

Some people can’t afford an electric vehicle. How is electrified transportation relevant to the larger public?

Considering the high cost of electric vehicles and the expectation that owners will charge mostly at home or at work, the current electric vehicle ownership model disproportionality benefits the upper to middle class. ASPIRE targets a new ownership model with emphasis on public charging infrastructure that supports low-cost electric vehicles with no expectation of private charging. Shared infrastructure will be supported by the use of all vehicle types. This model makes electric vehicles more affordable and supports small businesses, ride share services, public transit agencies, school districts, and other users who could not afford their own private charging system. ASPIRE targets new policies that promote broader coverage into disadvantaged communities, rural areas, and public destinations such as national parks. By enabling clean transportation options for everyone, electrification promises a cleaner, more sustainable future.