MOLE is a technology trial within the InnovateUK programme : Infrastructure solutions for zero emission vehicles. The project partners are IPFT Fuels, TRL and Clairvaux.
MOLE is the product name for an autonomous, underbody, conductive electric vehicle charging technology developed by IPFT Fuels. This project is about verification of the manufacturer’s system performance (currently at technology readiness level 4) and supporting further R&D to accelerate the product to TRL/6 or TRL/7, demonstrated via an early phase trial (underground/outdoors), and development of use cases for EV fleet charging at scale, as well as public (on-street) charging applications.
The challengeManual EV charging, which currently often replicates the experience and process of manual liquid refuelling infrastructure, offers progressively poor user experience, and manual charging infrastructure deployment is meeting increasing stakeholder resistance. As the demand for faster charging speeds rises, the future of EV charging is likely to be autonomous rather than manual.
MOLE potentially offers a more efficient, flexible and scalable system compared to inductive/wireless technology. There are fewer safety issues with this approach, and the highway remains uncluttered for both pavement and pedestrian users.
Competitor underbody wireless charging technologies use induction methods, but losses increase exponentially with misalignment, distance between coils/size of airgap and fast charging. A wireless conductive charging system like MOLE has demonstrated less loss and therefore far greater efficiency.
Through this project, by demonstrating the ability to deploy the MOLE charger underground and outdoor, IPFT Fuels expect the fully commercialised version of this technology to materially assist with UK targets for the uptake of electric vehicles by offering an alternative means of expanding the UK's EV charging infrastructure.
TRL's contributionTRL’s role is to ensure that MOLE is safe for use outdoor and underground. To this effect, TRL will create a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) for the proposed system, focusing on functional and electrical safety of an outdoor MOLE system. TRL will additionally develop trial risk assessments for initial use cases e.g., outdoor overground/underground, electrified/non-electrified installations, and controlled sites e.g. depot, and uncontrolled sites e.g. residential road. We will also create guidance material for vehicle connections and siting assessments.
The project is expected to take around 8 months, with its final report to be published in the spring of 2022.
AcknowledgementsThe MOLE project receives funding from the Department for Transport through Innovate UK, with 21% of the project cost being met by investment from TRL’s industry partners in the consortium delivering the project.