Germany is Now Testing Power Lines for Electric Trucks on the Autobahn

The eHighway system combines the efficiency of an electric railroad with the flexibility of trucking.

May 28, 2019

Transportation is going green. There are electric cars, bicycles, trains, ferries, and now even trucks. A system that allows trucks to pull electrical power from overhead cables is being tested on 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the Autobahn in the German state of Hesse.

The part of the road that is electrified or - eHighway, as Siemens calls it - that is being tested runs through a very heavily used section of the autobahn from Frankfurt Airport to a nearby industrial park. Two more sections are slated to open soon according topress release from Siemens. The test will run through 2022.

It is the first test on a public road in Germany and was developed by Siemens to allow large trucks to recharge their batteries while driving at full speed. Not unlike electrical trains, special equipment on the trucks' roofs makes contact with the overhead lines at speeds up to 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour.

As long as the trucks are connected through an active pantograph, they run on their electric motors while also charging their battery. Once the truck leaves the electrified Autobahn section, they continue to run on their electric motor until the battery runs dry. Since they are hybrids, they will then switch to their diesel motor.

The eHighway was developed by Siemens and is funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment. The technology allows big rigs the same type of flexibility as electric trains. In fact, it is based on railroad electrification.

The German government spent €70 million ($77 million) to develop trucks, which, according to Siemens, bring with them a host of economic benefits from lower fuel consumption and longer truck lifetime; but the best savings are in environmental impact.

“With the eHighway, we've created an economically viable solution for climate-neutral freight transport by road. Our technology is an already existing and feasible alternative to trucks operating with internal combustion engines,” Roland Edel, chief technology officer of the mobility division said.

The environmentally friendly eHighway will provide a significant reduction in pollution and emissions, according to Siemens. If only 30 percent of German trucks were electrified, it would prevent six million tons of Co2 from going into the atmosphere.

Truck transportation is on the rise and is the fastest growing consumer of fossil fuels, according to the International Transport Forum. “Electrified trucks are [a] particularly efficient solution on the road to carbon-neutral transportation,” Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, state secretary at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment told CNN.

Reducing carbon emissions from transportation, including freight, is a crucial part of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celcius. Projects like the eHighway could play a big role in meeting these goals.

The first eHighway opened in Sweden in June 2016 and there have also been two small test projects near the US ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The German test is the first large-scale test on an open road and could make all the difference in the future of moving freight.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.

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