A new plan has been announced to deploy a range of trucks, powered by electricity, to operate across Europe. This in itself may raise a casual ‘so what?’, even from ardent supporters of green energy solutions. What is of interest is the mechanism by which a fleets of electrified freight vehicles will operate.
The mechanism being developed is to power the trucks via overhead electrified lines. This truck overhead line system will not only provide power to the vehicles, it will also enable electric charging while driving. It is estimated that such technology will save up to 12 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, should the conversion rate be achieved.
The two companies involved with the project are Continental Engineering Services (CES), and Siemens Mobility. Their mission is to electrify key sections of the European highway network with an overhead line system.
The initial plan will be for 4,000 kilometers of interstate highway to be equipped with the new power lines. This plan is supported within Germany by the “National Platform for the Future of Mobility,” which is an innovation initiative driven by the Federal Ministry of Transport.
In terms of what the two partners are bringing to the table, Siemens Mobility is a specialist in rail electrification, while Continental Engineering Services is a provider for automotive technologies.
Siemens Mobility is currently running three public field trials: On the A5 interstate highway in Hesse between the junctions at Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd at Frankfurt Airport and Darmstadt/Weiterstadt, on the A1 in Schleswig-Holstein between the Reinfeld junction and the Lübeck intersection, and on the B462 federal highway in Baden-Württemberg between Kuppenheim and Gaggenau.
Called the eHighway Project, the scheme will develop technology that supplies trucks with electric drives on heavily frequented stretches of highway via an overhead cable. In essence, this is transferring the principle of rail electrification to the road. The types of electric drives that will be compatible include battery, hybrid, and hydrogen.
The eHighway technology is essentially ready to go. The major step is now with developing current collectors for trucks, and to embed these into commercial vehicle manufacturing.
Part of the considerations for the new scheme relate to the fact that Germany can only reach its 2030 climate targets for the transport sector with ambitious EU car emission limits and a host of additional measures.
The expectation is that the scheme will lead to a new wave of energy-efficient, cost-effective and emission-free truck traffic. If the pilots are successful, the expectation is to toll-out the truck overhead line system across Europe as part of creating a smarter, digital transport infrastructure.