The world’s first electric highway opened in June 2016 in Sweden, as part of the country’s push to remove fossil fuels from its transport sector by 2030
Collaboration between German engineering giant Siemens and Swedish commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania, has produced a 2km long electric catenary system on a road just north of Stockholm. The catenary system or ‘overhead wire’ has been used for years by tramways and trains. Now two diesel-hybrid Scania trucks, specially adapted to this system, are being tested along this short stretch of road.
In a press statement Siemens Mobility Division chief engineer Roland Edel, noted that: “The Siemens eHighway is twice as efficient as a conventional internal combustion engine.” He went on to explain that because the eHighway supplies trucks with power from the overhead contact line, not only is the energy consumption halved, but local air pollution is significantly reduced.
More than a third of Sweden’s CO2 emissions come from transport, and half of that from freight transports, hence their commitment to a fossil fuel free transport sector by 2030. With road freight expected to grow, a solution to carbon-intensive transport would allow the sector to be more flexible and environmentally friendly – as well as eerily quieter.
Hybrid on the highway
An intelligent pantograph and a sensor system allows the trucks to connect to and disconnect from the overhead line system at speeds of 90km/h. Once connected, the trucks take power from the catenary wires, running the hybrid engine on electricity alone, and with high efficiency and – Siemens is keen to point out – zero local emissions.
Once disconnected from the wires, the truck’s diesel hybrid drive allows it to continue its journey as normal, maintaining the flexibility needed for freight transport. These trucks are not only flexible about where they can go, but also how they go there; because of the eHighway’s open configuration technology, battery or natural gas can be used to power the truck as an alternative to the hybrid drive used in Sweden.
Siemens is also collaborating with Volvo on creating another eHighway demonstration project in California. This will test how different truck configurations perform with the eHighway infrastructure around the Long Beach and Los Angeles port areas in 2017.
According to Gas2, Siemens is bullish on the potential of this technology, stating that the company could power all trucks in Germany with such a system using around 4,000km of wire.
If such technology becomes more widespread, and with advances in battery technology in the future, large all-electric trucks could be powered and charged from a catenary system indefinitely – a major step towards emission-free freight transport.