Ever heard of e-highways? These are highways with overhead lines to which suitably equipped e-trucks can dock like streetcars. The line not only supplies the power for the current drive, but also charges the battery for the onward journey. So, this can significantly increase the range of the load power trucks, and hybrid trucks can run purely electrically for longer.
How the trucks dock with the overhead line? If the intelligent system installed in the truck detects a suitable overhead line, the roof of the driver’s cab opens a bit, and the pantograph moves out. When the e-highway is over, the current collectors retract, and the truck rolls on with a full battery or diesel drive.
The principle has been tested in Germany since 2019 and is already in use on three routes: the A5 in Hesse, the A1 in Schleswig-Holstein, and the B 462 in Baden-Württemberg. Pleased with fuel savings and largely smooth operation, the trucking companies taking part in the field trials are quite positive.
The Accompanying Research on Overhead Line Trucks in Germany (BOLD) also rates the e-highway principle as a promising and economical option for climate protection in road freight transport. Although the costs of using trolleybuses, as with other alternative drive systems, are currently still somewhat higher than for diesel trucks, significant cost savings can be expected when entering the mass market.
Project partner Siemens even estimates that a fully developed e-highway network would save around 16,000 euros in fuel for a 40-ton semitrailer with an annual mileage of 100,000 km. This assumes that the most important long-distance transport axes in Germany would be equipped with an overhead line network of around 4,000 kilometers in length.
A test track for overhead line trucks based on the German model is also to be launched in Great Britain in the near future. According to the German federal government’s Autobahn GmbH, the technology is being closely followed in Austria, and there have already been intensive exchanges with delegations from France, Italy, Hungary, and India.
Nevertheless: the fully developed e-highway network is still a pipe dream at this stage, which is why our roadshow truck is on the road with conventional electric or diesel-powered tractors.
But what about you: Have you participated in a model trial yet, or could you imagine drawing power for your truck from overhead lines? Write your experiences and your opinion in a comment.