Clean Transport siemens ehighway mobile ev charging

Published on August 7th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Siemens eHighway Gets Ready To Roll

August 7th, 2014 by  

The dream of an electric highway for your electric vehicle is nudging a bit closer to reality. We’ve covered some of the research into in-road wireless charging, and while that could be far ahead in the future, Siemens has already come up with a working overhead system, called eHighway, which enables vehicles to switch seamlessly from liquid fuels to electric power.

siemens ehighway mobile ev charging

Siemens eHighway mobile EV charging (cropped) courtesy of Siemens.

The eHighway Of The Future Is Now

The system has been tested out in Europe since 2011 and now it’s set to debut in the US, at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

We’re thinking that Siemens’ eHighway would be ideal for EVs like the Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric car that can run off gasoline or battery power.

You Volt owners will have to hold your breaths for a while, though. Adaptation for smaller vehicles is a possibility, but for now the eHighway system is designed for large trucks. The aim is to reduce carbon emissions in the ground shipping industry, especially in port areas where truck congestion generates a considerable mess.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which covers the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, spotted eHighway as a way to reduce local air pollution and invited Siemens over to check it out.

eHighway: Everything Old Is New Again

The foundational technology behind the eHighway is familiar turf to those of you who remember trolley cars.

An overhead wire called a catenary line supplies the electrical current. It reaches the vehicle by direct contact through a flexible pole attached to a rooftop device called a pantograph.

In Siemens’s hopped-up version, the pantograph can connect and disconnect from the catenary while the vehicle is traveling at practically any speed that local permit allows, making for a seamless driving experience.

More to the point, the seamless system eliminates delays, and the resulting traffic congestion and pollution, that would otherwise be caused by the switchover.

Although the whole thing still sounds cumbersome compared to in-ground wireless charging, keep in mind that eHighway is here and now technology. It’s a quick fix for pollution hotspots (the California eHighway demo is taking place in one of the worst areas of the US) and since it requires no adjustment to the road bed, installation is relatively inexpensive.

The California eHighway Demonstration

The California eHighway demonstration will consist of a one mile, two-way stretch of road, located on Alameda Street in Carson.

The demonstration is designed to showcase the system’s ability to handle electric drive vehicles that run on other fuels when not attached to the catenary system. That includes diesel, compressed natural gas, and “other.”

We’re thinking “other” includes fuel cells. Although that might seem a little redundant in terms of zero emissions, hooking up to the eHighway would conserve the hydrogen used in hydrogen fuel cells.

Now that Siemens has the go-ahead for the eHighway demo, it’s working with Volvo’s Mack Trucks subsidiary to develop a dedicated demonstration vehicle. Siemens is also counting on firms in California to provide retrofitted demo vehicles, aiming for a total of four. The company expects the demo to be up and running by July 2015.

On The Road To A Wireless Electric Highway

While Siemens tackles the low-hanging fruit of mobile EV charging in terms of feasibility and infrastructure costs, the Obama Administration isn’t letting any grass grow under its feet. In 2012, the Administration dedicated $4 million to kickstart R&D for wireless in-road EV charging.


The initial aim is to develop wireless charging for parked cars, but Oak Ridge National Laboratory, for one, is already envisioning an on-the-go system. That’s already a reality in South Korea, where in-road EV charging is being tested out on buses.

As for getting wireless charging up to highway speed on the open road for passenger cars, check out the wireless charging hookup between Qualcomm and Drayson Racing to see what could be in store for the future.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • citizen

    Fuel cells are much cleaner way to go with an infrastructure that won’t be overhead wherever you go. Plus the technology for refueling, the us the infrastructure will be much easier and less expensive to build.

  • Vladimir Postnikov

    The beginning of an e-mail to Siemens Corp.:
    Date:Mon, 16 Jul 2012 02:03:01 +0400 [16.07.2012 02:03:01 MSD]
    From: Vladimir Postnikov
    Subject: Fwd: GITS or ‘eHighway Of The Future’ concept

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    I read about new achievement of Siemens Corporation. I mean the
    ‘eHighway Of The Future’ concept.
    I am sure that your corporation is able to realize the idea of
    vehicles with overhead wires. I would like to remind you that the
    ‘eHighway Of The Future’ concept is a part of Global Intelligent
    Transportation System concept ( that was
    sent to your experts Dr. Eberl and Mr. Martini on 12.12.2010 after the
    concept was presented on 17th ITS World Congress held in Busan (South
    Korea) in 2010. (….
    I confirm that it is so enclosing my e-mail to Dr. Eberl and Mr. Martini. ……

  • Man, I am sooo stoked for the Siemens eHighway(TM), it’s sick. It sounds extreme. Nobody writes enthusiastic tech copy like Tina. I thinks she’s a robot, like one of those socially responsible driverless cars I read about yesterday.

  • Matt

    Yes those spots where trucks idle in line waiting there turn to load/unload. Of course also works for EV buses, can string a section before every so many bus stops. The bus is in the lane already, just extend and charge. Keeps the bus topped off, lets the smaller batteries for the bus. Trading off fixed infrastructure cost with bus costs.

  • José DeSouza

    If it could be combined with hydraulic storage (How? By simply substituting an electric motor for the ICE part of a series hydraulic hybrid vehicle), then a very flexible, infrastructure-lean kind of trolleybus (no propulsion batteries onboard) could also be developed out of Siemens’ eHighway concept. It’d be just a matter of innovatively putting together what already exists.

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