Siemens To Build First Electric Highway For Trucks

4 weeks ago by Mark Kane 30

The eHighway by Siemens

The German state of Hesse has commissioned Siemens to build its eHighway, an overhead contact line for electrified freight transportover a 10 km (6.2 miles) stretch of the A5 autobahn.

Siemens eHighway Test Track in Germany (Siemens/LA Times)

It will be the first such project in Germany on a public highway.

Powering hybrid trucks through a pantograph on the trucks is expected to reduce energy consumption by half. Electric trucks also could use the catenary.

The infrastructure is scheduled for 2018, but the cost of project wasn’t disclosed.

“Siemens originally presented its innovative “eHighway” concept in 2012. The system will be installed on the A5 federal autobahn between the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange.

With this field trial, the eHighway will be tested on a public highway in Germany for the first time. Siemens will be responsible for the planning, construction and, as an option, maintenance of the system. The system is being built as part of the joint project “Electrified, innovative heavy freight transport on autobahns” (ELISA) of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). Hessen Mobil, responsible for road and transport management in Hesse, is managing the project.”

“The eHighway is twice as efficient compared to internal combustion engines. That not only means cutting energy consumption in half, but also significantly reducing local air pollution. The core element of the system is an intelligent pantograph on the trucks combined with a hybrid drive system. Trucks equipped with the system operate locally emission-free with electricity from the overhead line and automatically switch to a hybrid engine on roads without overhead lines.”

Previously Siemens and Scania launched demonstration project in Sweden, but only two-kilometer/1.25 mile strip:

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30 responses to "Siemens To Build First Electric Highway For Trucks"

  1. Mad says:

    I don’t know how much power you get out of these lines (My guess is quite high like 5MW). My question is what would stop them from charging up a truck battery every 200 miles so it can go nearly indefinitely without stopping?

    1. Doggydogworld says:

      Mad – The TGV catenaries regularly supply 10 MW and have done 20 MW in speed record runs.

      Honda proposed a system a one mile stretch of wires for every 25 miles of road. They only proposed 440 kW for trucks, but I can’t make that math work at highway speeds. 1.2 MW and 10 mile spacing works.

      Honda’s system puts the wires in a normal-looking guardrail, so EV cars and pickups can use the same system (at lower power). And it looks 10x better than these overhead wires. Brilliant!

      Honda’s approach also has a huge cost advantage over long-range EV Semi. It even has a cost advantage over diesel Semi. It’s something a sane country would implement immediately.

      1. Mad says:

        Well that’s interesting. Then that would make it possible to charge up a truck battery.

        That’s great for weight savings. The only reason I saw a truck as being limited for long haul routes is due to the weight of the battery. Tesla’s Model S batteries come in at around 1500lbs/100kWh. A truck uses about 2 kWh/mile. So to get 300 miles range, it would require 600 kWh and 9000 lbs of batteries. That weight eats right into how much the truck can haul.

        However, if you use this system of lines spaced out every 100 miles for 30 miles, that battery can be cut in half to 300 kWh (so it would operate at 20-80% capacity). They’d charge it at 600 kW (with an extra 120kW to drive the truck).

        That adds 4500 lbs (minus maybe 500 lbs for the centenary system) to the possible payload for the truck. That’s money right into the trucker’s (or owners) pocket. Also, that would save them roughly $50,000 in batteries.

        1. Doggydogworld says:

          Yes, you could cut battery weight (and cost) to where an EV Semi weighs less than a diesel one.

          I like the idea of having one mile of wired road every 10 or 20 miles. That gives the best route flexibility. Plus it’s no big deal if one segment is out, just hit the next one. Plus you can keep the battery near an ideal SOC. Plus,…. well you get the idea.

          In theory you could do a really small battery (80 kWh/40 mile), but I think 200 kWh is a practical minimum. You don’t really want these things in urban areas, so you need enough range to get across major cities.

          If you only wire up 5-10% of our interstates and major state highways the cost is peanuts compared to the savings on oil imports. Plus we save on freight costs, so our economy becomes more efficient.

      2. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        “Honda’s system puts the wires in a normal-looking guardrail, so EV cars and pickups can use the same system (at lower power). And it looks 10x better than these overhead wires. Brilliant!”

        Has this actually been tested on a road with real traffic?

        At best, that could charge the outside lanes on a highway. Will there be laws prohibiting cars and trucks from traveling in that lane if they don’t need a charge? And at best, it’s still a clumsy mechanical connection, requiring miles and miles of electrified rails… even if those rails are elevated above the ground.

        Bottom line: That may look better, but it seems less practical than overhead lines.

        1. Asak says:

          It also seems like it’s more at risk of being damaged. Say someone hits the guard rail and it’s bent out of shape. The person in the car moves off, leaving the rail damaged and then along comes an EV, what happens when your pole or whatever you’re using to charge from the rail hits that section? In a worst case scenario I could see it being ripped right off the car, and in less bad scenario knocked around dangerously.

          I think it’s safer to have something high above the road that can’t be damaged so easily. Although, the ultimate solution is to put an induction charger in the road itself. Maybe that’s the ultimate solution: 300 miles of EV range but then constant recharging by magnetic induction in any major highway. That would eliminate the need for superchargers too.

        2. Doggydogworld says:

          It looked like Honda tested on a highway proving ground, but it was hard to tell.

          I figure the wires would be on the right (slow lane). Slow down to 60 mph for a mile to get a little extra juice. Perhaps pave the shoulder and use it. This is only in rural areas, shouldn’t be a need for multiple lanes. Certainly not for many years.

          It’s just a pipe dream. The US can’t be bothered with getting off oil. Even if it would save a couple trillion each decade.

    2. Tosho says:

      I wonder what would happen if you get 100-200 trucks on the same wire? You would need really thick and expensive wires to support a larger number of trucks…
      Also, how do you measure the consumption of each individual truck and how do they pay for the electricity?
      There is no way to stop the trucks from simply stealing juice if this idea catches on.

      It really seems to be just the next thoughtless and overengineered german idea.

  2. DJ says:

    I may be in the minority but I really hope something like this doesn’t catch on. It seems like such an expensive investment to solve one particular problem. I think the $ would be better spent on solving the problem overall as a whole instead of just for trucks.

    That and it’s just ugly to look at. I remember when San Francisco had those lines everywhere for the buses (do they still?). It was just ugly. Having them maybe for a few miles to pick up some juice wouldn’t be as bad but then again you’re faced with the problems of charge rates, that it’d only be for trucks, etc..

    And ya, as Doggy said other systems that are kind of like this seem to address more of the problem although I suspect are similarly cost prohibitive and potentially dangerous (what happens if you crash in to it?).

    1. Dav8or says:

      Yes, San Francisco still uses all those overhead lines. Yes they are ugly. They do however reduce pollution and noise in the city.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        In San Francisco, they are used to power streetcars, are they not?

        I have no objection to such nostalgic use of retro tech. That’s part of the charm of San Francisco. But trying to expand that to a more widespread use, to power privately owned trucks and/or cars…

        Well, various comments in this discussion have already pointed out several practical obstacles to that, not to mention it’s inefficient, wasteful of resources, and stringing power lines over every lane of a road or highway would be very ugly.

        I certainly hope for a better and more efficient 21st century solution, not a retreat to 19th century technology!

        1. MikeG says:

          Maybe you’re thinking about trolley buses which many cities across the US have. San Francisco’s cable cars grab a moving wire.

          1. SJC says:

            SFO has cable cars and they also have electric trolley cars south of market.

        2. Dan says:

          Pantographs might have been invented in the 19th century but the wheel was invented in the 20th century BC and I don’t see you opposing that. The fastest high speed trains use OHE and it is not that expensive to electrify a single lane of a highway. This is not a technology for your little personal auto. It is far more elegant for the trucking industry where lugging around giant batteries is so stupid that it will never catch on.

  3. jeff songster says:

    I like the idea of doing this… for local trucks… but for long hauls it really is far more efficient to use trains.

    1. Dav8or says:

      Trains have their place still, but they can no way provide the kind of rapid flexibility required to get everyone’s Amazon packages to them in two days or less. Trains are for moving bulk commodities and things that don’t matter so much if it takes 2-4 weeks to get to the destination and when those goods do get there, much of it will still be by truck after transfer. Trucks make just in time production possible and they make consumers very, very happy with fast deliveries. We need better trucks, not a return to an older technology.

      1. Ross says:

        2-4 weeks? Are you aware that almost all UPS Ground packages going more than 600-700 miles go by rail? The longest delivery time in the continental US is 5 days for a UPS ground package.

        While you’re absolutely right that trucks provide a speed advantage, trains can handle the vast majority of the freight if there was substantial infrastrucrture improvements made on more routes.

        1. Ken_3 says:

          Maybe for you. I live in St Louis, in the middle of the country, and it always seems to take 2 weeks to get a package. I’m thrilled to get one in under 7 days.

  4. James P Heartney says:

    An inductive strip on the highway can power any vehicle, and doesn’t require the overhead structures. I’m not an engineer, so I don’t know how the details work, but from where I sit the inductive strip seems more promising.

    1. Mikael says:

      It’s generally superexpensive. Not something that is going to happen anytime soon on long stretches of highway.

  5. Richard says:

    There are also versions with a conductive strip, such as this one being tried out i Sweden:

  6. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Good grief. The EV revolution is speeding into the 21st century! The inefficient, spark-spitting retro tech of overhead naked power lines and clumsy pantograph pickups, 19th century technology, should be retired.

  7. Don Zenga says:

    Wonderful, hope the trucks with 10 and 14 wheels will also be able to use it in addition to the bigger 18 wheelers. But how about the buses and trucks and private vehicles.

  8. Nix says:

    That is so ugly. Reminds me of some old East German industrial contraption.

    Seems like batteries would be a better answer.

  9. Ross says:

    If we’re ever going to get serious about long-haul truck freight being electrified, this is the way to go. Another benefit is that I imagine it has an efficiency advantage over batteries.

  10. EV Livin' says:

    There is another one mile long test of this underway on a public roadway near the port of Los Angeles. Siemens there too. It is meant to support short haul drayage between the ports and a nearby railyard. Short haul in an industrial setting seems like a potentially good niche for this system.

  11. Serial anti tesla troll thomas says:

    Totally UGLY!!!!!

  12. john doe says:

    This is only ment to be for short hawl from transport airports to a goods central, and from a port to a goods central.
    Payment is thought of either free to use, or a fixed price.
    Siemens knows this is only for areas with intense traffic, and have stated so as well.
    It is intended for hybrid trucks.

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