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Old 9th May 2019, 14:54   #1
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Default Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

Germany has opened it's first electric highway on May 7th 2019. A system that allows trucks to draw electric power from overhead cables has been installed.

Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables-hessen_mobil_ehighway_1.png

Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables-hessen_mobil_ehighway_2.png

The section of road opened is a 10 kilometers stretch of the autobahn A5. It links the Frankfurt airport global freight hub to an industrial park near Darmstadt. It's the first such test on a public road in Germany and is called project ELISA (ELektrifizierter, Innovativer Schwerverkehr auf Autobahnen) which translates as ELectrified, Innovative Heavy transport on Highways. Two more stretches of highway with the system will open soon-One on the A1 near Lübeck in Schleswig-Holstein and another on the B 462 at Kuppenheim in Baden-Württemberg. Tests and demonstrations of the eHighway technology have also been conducted on a smaller scale in Sweden and near the US ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Developed by Siemens, the core of the eHighway solution is an intelligent current collector combined with a hybrid drive system. These current collectors mounted on the roofs of the trucks enable the vehicle to connect to overhead electrified lines even while traveling at speeds of up to 90 kmph. Sensors detect when the overhead wires are available. The trucks run on electric motors when connected to the overhead lines, at the same time the battery is charged. A hybrid system will power the trucks when they return to a traditional road without overhead lines. The current collector is a further development of the rail-proven system. There is one difference, however that if the truck wants to overtake another truck, it can easily jump between the overhead line and the Hybrid power train. Establishing or releasing the connection takes place automatically in flowing traffic without the speed having to be reduced.

Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables-hessen_mobil_ehighway_4.png

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Construction work had started in October 2017 and completed on 30/11/2018 ready for testing. Along the 10 km track, 229 masts are erected to receive the overhead wires above the right lane (slow lane). 112 of these masts are in the direction towards Frankfurt, 111 in the direction of Darmstadt and 6 in the median strip along Gräfenhausen.

Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables-ig2019050013moen.jpg

Highlights of his system are:
  • Power is transmitted directly from the overhead contact lines into the vehicle, enabling an optimal efficiency level of more than 80 percent.
  • Braking and accelerating trucks can exchange energy with one another via the contact line, for example on sections with a mountainous topography. The trucks are able to recover braking energy and feed it back into the grid.
  • Existing overhead lines, for example in trolleybus systems, prove the safety of the technology for road applications.
  • Experiences from rail and tram operations confirm its long lifespan and relatively low maintenance and servicing costs.
  • The technology can easily be integrated into existing road infrastructure and does not pose an obstacle to other road users.
  • Hybrid drive system enables the truck to remain flexible, for example when overtaking and on non-electrified routes.
  • Intelligent current collector enables the vehicle to connect and disconnect with the contact line system at speeds of up to 90 km/h and compensates for movements of the truck within the drive lane.
  • The technology represents an innovation compared to purely electrically driven trolleybuses, which can only run on fixed routes, and the hybrid trucks used in opencast mines.
  • The total project costs in the sub project ELISA amounts to around €14.6 million.

According to the group, road transportation of goods will also account for 15% of the projected increase in global CO2 emissions until 2050.Despite considerable expansion of rail infrastructure, railroads will only be able to handle around a third freight traffic. The majority will therefore have to be transported on road. Experts expect CO2 emissions from road freight traffic to more than double by 2050. Projects like the one in Germany could be part of a solution that includes increased railway and electric vehicle use. Siemens estimates that a 40tonne truck could save it's owner around €16,000 on fuel over 100,000 kilometers of driving on eHighways

Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables-ig2016060038moen.jpg

Source:
ELISA
Siemens eHighway
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Old 10th May 2019, 12:38   #2
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

Bit surprised to see Germany try this out. Does it make any sense? For one, battery tech is rapidly progressing and in 10 years or so, battery range won't be a worry at all. In addition, trucks can carry heavier / high capacity batteries more easily than cars.

Tesla's Semi is already boasting about an 800 km range. In 10 years, that should easily be 1600 km, if not 2000 km. I think the driver, truck & overheating tyres will need a rest much before the battery runs out of juice.
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Old 10th May 2019, 12:50   #3
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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Tesla's Semi is already boasting about an 800 km range. In 10 years, that should easily be 1600 km, if not 2000 km. I think the driver, truck & overheating tyres will need a rest much before the battery runs out of juice.
800 km range when there is no load. With load, the range is likely to be much lower. Also, did some math -

Tesla model 3 weighs 1.5 tons out of which battery pack weighs 500 kgs. That is, battery weight is 33% of total weight. Now, an 18 wheeler truck has a load capacity of 35 to 40 tons. Assuming battery tech that powers Tesla Model 3 will power Tesla semi, batteries alone have to weigh 12 tons! But then, Tesla trucks don't need to fly like Model 3 (0 to 100 kmph in X secs). So actual weight of batteries in Tesla Semi might be lower.

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Bit surprised to see Germany try this out. Does it make any sense? For one, battery tech is rapidly progressing and in 10 years or so, battery range won't be a worry at all. In addition, trucks can carry heavier / high capacity batteries more easily than cars.
With this infrastructure, truck batteries need to have enough juice to travel just 50 km (from highway to warehouse on the outskirts of a major city)

Last edited by SmartCat : 10th May 2019 at 12:51.
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Old 10th May 2019, 13:12   #4
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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Bit surprised to see Germany try this out. Does it make any sense? For one, battery tech is rapidly progressing and in 10 years or so, battery range won't be a worry at all. In addition, trucks can carry heavier / high capacity batteries more easily than cars.

Tesla's Semi is already boasting about an 800 km range. In 10 years, that should easily be 1600 km, if not 2000 km. I think the driver, truck & overheating tyres will need a rest much before the battery runs out of juice.
The use case is justified GTO, if you look at cargo terminals, space is at a premium. Trucks typically ply continously at low speeds with drivers taking shifts. So allowing long charging hours for trucks is technically down-time.

Some truck operators in Mumbai are so confident that their trucks will never cross 40-50 that they run the vehicle with very basic cabins or even Cowl trucks (cabins are built after market in the truck industry, this is changing though). These low speeds will impacts range to a large extent, especially at the loading / unloading points.

So, need for continuous operations and space which On-Charge trucks may use up are two factors which make the use case feasible.
Its like steel / mining plants having their own Railway terminals. Also looks like a pilot at best, will provide learning on on-ground feasibility.

Last edited by 2000rpm : 10th May 2019 at 13:13.
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Old 10th May 2019, 13:34   #5
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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Bit surprised to see Germany try this out. Does it make any sense?
Could be due to the ease of adoption: both operationally and financially. Converting or even building coaches that run on electricity can happen much, much faster than waiting for long-distance trucks to be mainstream. Most European countries/some cities of the US already have buses that run on electricity.

Doing this on highways is easier considering the generally straight/unobstructed roads.
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Old 10th May 2019, 14:38   #6
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Bit surprised to see Germany try this out. Does it make any sense? For one, battery tech is rapidly progressing and in 10 years or so, battery range won't be a worry at all. In addition, trucks can carry heavier / high capacity batteries more easily than cars.

Tesla's Semi is already boasting about an 800 km range. In 10 years, that should easily be 1600 km, if not 2000 km. I think the driver, truck & overheating tyres will need a rest much before the battery runs out of juice.
The advantages that I can see are
1. As SmartCat has written, vehicles itself can become lighter. In some years if they cover more roads with this kind of electricity feeding network, the on-vehicle battery can be very small. Of course Trucks can carry heavy batteries, but if they can carry more goods than battery, any truck operator would prefer it.
Imagine a hypothetical situation where we could get a continuous supply of Petrol/Diesel for our current cars from outside the car; manufacturers and users would've been happy to remove the fuel tank(which is also quite heavy when full) or just have a puny little tank just enough to run where there is no supply.
2. When the process of charging is completely eliminated, the idle time will reduce drastically which is very good for fleet operators. Of course charging times are coming down drastically, but this eliminates it completely!
3. Lesser weight means more mileage! we as Indians know the value of "Kitna deti hain"
4. One other aspect I see is when the vehicles have smaller batteries, battery disposal issues (which is hazardous if not done properly) are reduced.
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Old 10th May 2019, 16:08   #7
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Bit surprised to see Germany try this out. Does it make any sense? For one, battery tech is rapidly progressing and in 10 years or so, battery range won't be a worry at all. In addition, trucks can carry heavier / high capacity batteries more easily than cars.
.
Similar thoughts, although I have a few additional ones. There is a reason we do not see many trolley busses these days. There are very few cities left, in fact here in the Netherlands we only have one city that has trolley busses.

There are many pro’s an con’s on trolley busses. But one of the issues is that overhead wire. Apart from the aesthetics, it is a costly to build and even more costly to maintain.

I am not sure what powers these trucks. Typical trolley buss are powered by 600VDC. As trucks are heavy they will be drawing huge current. The combination of mechanical wear due to the pantograph dragging along it and the draw of high currents (e.g. sparking) is what wears down the overhead cable.

You can bring down the current by applying a higher voltage, but that in itself has some limitations as well. I assume they are using DC here as well, because it allows for more efficient and simple e-motors on the trucks with high torque at no or low RPMs.

I do like to way they have managed to automate the raising and lowering of the pantographs (current collector they call them?), pretty cool! Being able to deliver power back into the grid, upon braking is pretty neat.

Will be interesting to see what will happen next after this pilot.

Jeroen
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Old 10th May 2019, 22:38   #8
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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I think the driver, truck & overheating tyres will need a rest much before the battery runs out of juice.
Tyres don't really overheat - trucks can run all day long without any issues. As for the driver, you probably will see a self driving version of this in the coming years.
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Old 10th May 2019, 23:38   #9
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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I am not sure what powers these trucks. Typical trolley buss are powered by 600VDC. As trucks are heavy they will be drawing huge current. The combination of mechanical wear due to the pantograph dragging along it and the draw of high currents (e.g. sparking) is what wears down the overhead cable.
Jeroen
The railways have been using this tech for quite a while. How do they manage these issues?
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Old 11th May 2019, 01:07   #10
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The railways have been using this tech for quite a while. How do they manage these issues?
There's regular maintenance of the overhead equipment.

Plus with the railways they don't really have to worry about smaller or heterogeneous traffic. And trains stick to their tracks.

In a country like India where the government owns the railways, it will be difficult to ascertain the profitability of maintenance because the losses will be absorbed by the government. So we cannot deduce anything about the viability of such widespread electrification right away.
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Old 11th May 2019, 12:39   #11
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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The railways have been using this tech for quite a while. How do they manage these issues?
They do quite a bit of maintenance on the overhead cables too!

And there are some differences. On this system there are two overhead cables, on trains only one. So that more or less doubles maintenance to start with.

Trucks are likely to more accelerations per kilometer then the average train. Also most train system here in the west are moving to high voltage AC systems. The heavy cargo tracks here in the Netherlands are using 25kV!

Older system might still be using 1500 V. Also, we have more and more AD rather than DC systems. Maybe the trucks use AC as well. I don’t know.

So it is a very different design.

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Old 11th May 2019, 13:58   #12
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Default Re: Germany: First highway for electric trucks with overhead cables

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The railways have been using this tech for quite a while. How do they manage these issues?
I think the question should be in a country like India where there is abundance and reach of railway tracks going to bizzare remote corners of the country should we not just stick and rather encourage to transfer cargo movement by railway than through roads? It's way economical, just where the railway ends to a nearest point one can off board cargos and then transfer to destination by contemporary ways.

Sometime back a 12 kg parcel took me Rs 200 to courier from Chennai to Kolkata via railways which is way cheaper.
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Old 11th May 2019, 14:10   #13
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just where the railway ends to a nearest point one can off board cargos and then transfer to destination by contemporary ways.
This is the part is usually complicated or labour intensive and might be time consuming, hence not widely used instead of roadways.

In some parts they do have a program where the trucks are loaded onto the train and they can drive away after reaching a station close to delivery location. This somehow hasn't been tried in many places for some reason.
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Old 11th May 2019, 14:24   #14
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This is the part is usually complicated or labour intensive and might be time consuming, hence not widely used instead of roadways.

In some parts they do have a program where the trucks are loaded onto the train and they can drive away after reaching a station close to delivery location. This somehow hasn't been tried in many places for some reason.
More than loading the trucks on the train which might otherwise involve a return of the empty truck what would be more cost effective would be container loading like in shipping which can be transferred as is on flat bed trucks and little to no labour involvement as there are machines and cranes which can be present at railyard to ease this task. Manual loading and unloading into container is anyway not an additional work as it applies even in case of trucks.
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Old 11th May 2019, 18:44   #15
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In some parts they do have a program where the trucks are loaded onto the train and they can drive away after reaching a station close to delivery location. This somehow hasn't been tried in many places for some reason.
It is being tried on the Konkan Railway for a few years now. Trucks moving to and fro the South can be loaded onto the train wagons and transported. Saves money and reduces risks for the transporters.

Not sure if this can be replicated across the country as not much data is available easily on the challenges and feasibility.
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