The German government has given the green light to using overhead powerlines along public roads in order to facilitate the transportation of goods by electric long-haul trucks.
Currently in its research and development phase, the heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) project is spearheaded by Volkswagen (which is working on development of the hybrid trucks through its Swedish subsidiary, Scania) and Siemens (which is developing the pantograph through which the trucks will draw their electricity on the fly). Both Siemens and Scania are already testing the system.
"The eHighway system is an economical and sustainable option for decarbonizing road transport. The field trials in Germany are an important step on the way toward realizing these systems," said Roland Edel, Chief Technology Officer of the Mobility Division at Siemens. "Along with the electrical drive components, the smart pantograph is the key part of the system: It connects the truck to the infrastructure along the highway. An efficiency of more than 80% is made possible by the efficient conductive energy transmission to the truck."
The project is being subsidized by Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions (which reportedly accounts for 56 million tonnes per year by heavy-duty transporters alone). The first real world test on German roads is expected to come early in 2019, using two hybrid Scania trucks (with varying degrees of electrification).
“For long-haulage transportation, Scania sees electric highways as one promising technology for a sustainable transport future,” says Claes Erixon, Executive Vice President Research and Development, at Scania. “Vehicle electrification is developing quickly and with its environmental, social and cost benefits, it will play an important role in the shift to a fossil-free transport system”.
The pilot is expected to run for three years, starting with three designated routes and expanding as the overhead powerline infrastructure expands.
“We are expecting the project to produce some useful findings on the potential for saving CO2 emissions through electrification and on the required energy demand of the trucks,” concluded Dr Axel Heinrich, Head of Group Research at Volkswagen. “These findings will then form input for the development of future generations of electric drives and the associated energy management.”