File this one under “W” for “Why didn’t anybody think of this before?” Siemens and the transportation company Scania have teamed up to translate the 19th century electric trolley into a 21st century electric highway for trucks. The system has been undergoing tests on the E16 highway in Gävle, Sweden, and just last month Scania took the inaugural two-kilometer drive with one of its G 360 4 x 2 trucks. (Note: We did first cover this idea in 2014.)
The Dream Of An Electric Highway For Trucks
Those of you familiar with trolleys will recognize one important difficulty in crossing the electric highway concept from mass transit over to trucks. Urban mass transit routes are fixed along a relatively limited number of permanent routes, but trucks can travel anywhere permitted by their weight and size.
Stringing up an entire country with overhead wires would be impractical, but one solution is to focus the electric highway concept on key shipping corridors and ports. Hybrid trucks would deploy their diesel engines elsewhere, and connect to the wires when they merge onto an electric highway.
Siemens is a partner on the interesting solution to electrify trucks, and the goal is to enable as much electric driving as possible. The idea would be to have an auxiliary battery that stores enough energy to enable a truck to “hop” from one section of electric highway to another, rather than requiring a continuous chain of overhead wires.
As for all-electric trucks, logistical considerations including weight, space, and charging times all work against the use of large-scale batteries in the long-haul freight sector. However, those barriers appear to be falling, at least around the edges. The short-haul delivery sector, for example, appears to be a good candidate for transitioning to EV tech. Another emerging heavy-duty EV sector is urban waste hauling.
Sweden Claims 1st Electric Highway In The World
That’s right — this recent launch in Sweden is the first use of the Siemens eHighway system on a public roadway in the world.
The inaugural trip down electricity road took place on June 22. Scania provides a quick rundown of how the new electric highway system operates:
The truck receives electrical power from a pantograph power collector that is mounted on the frame behind its cab. The pantographs are in turn connected to overhead power lines that are above the right-hand lane of the road, and the trucks can freely connect to and disconnect from the overhead wires while in motion.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
In case you’re wondering what happens when a fast-moving truck comes up behind a slow-moving vehicle in the electrified lane:
When the truck goes outside the electrically-powered lane, the pantograph is disconnected and the truck is then powered by the combustion engine or the battery-operated electric motor. The same principle applies when the driver wants to overtake another vehicle while on the electrified strip of the road.
Don’t run right out and buy yourself a pantograph-ready truck yet, though. Siemens emphasizes that the new eHighway is designed for a two-year test, with Scania providing just two vehicles for the duration. Further development will have to await the outcome of the test.
Let’s hope everything goes well because, according to Siemens, Sweden wants its transportation sector to be fossil-free by 2030. To help dovetail that goal with the new eHighway, Scania’s two hybrid trucks will use only biofuel in their Euro 6-certified diesel engines.
This fall, Scania also plans to street test Sweden’s first wirelessly charged hybrid electric urban bus, in Södertälje.
In the meantime, back in 2014, Siemens announced plans for two electric highway test projects in the US, at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in California.
No updates on those two yet, but just last spring, California came up with $23.6 million in funding for a 43-strong fleet of electric and hybrid electric trucks to be deployed at ports around the state, and a big announcement about a $26 million demonstration project at the Port of Los Angeles is coming this week.
Images: top via Scania (cropped), bottom via Siemens.
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