Highways wired with catenary lines like a railway: is this the future?

Catenary portals on the motorway, where trucks purchase electricity via a pantograph. It is a concept originating from the railway industry, but if it is up to Siemens Mobility, truck traffic is heading there with the so-called eHighway. Erik Koopman, Business Development Manager at Siemens Mobility, explained the benefits of this innovation in SpoorProTV on Wednesday.

The eHighway is not something of the future. In fact, the first routes have already been laid, namely in Sweden and Germany. On the A5 just below Frankfurt, a ten-kilometer stretch of motorway is fitted with a two-pole overhead line. There, the Technical University of Darmstadt and the Hesse State Tourist Board will be conducting field tests with the system until 2022. Specially prepared hybrid trucks from Scania are used for this.

“The eHighway was put on the map about ten years ago with the first tests north of Berlin. We have now reached the point where we are working on practical tests”, says Koopman, who will present the concept at RailTech Europe.

Truck for eHighway not more expensive than diesel truck

The principle is relatively simple, says Koopman. “As soon as the truck detects the presence of the overhead contact line, the pantograph is activated. This supplies the electric motor with power. However, the power can also be used to recharge a battery pack.”

The big difference with the early trolleybuses is that the trucks can leave the eHighway, for example to overtake or to leave the highway. Depending on the type of truck, the rest of the journey will be on electricity or on a conventional combustion engine.

What kind of truck is best to be used depends entirely on the customer. Carriers who frequently drive from A to B over a relatively short distance may be able to handle a fully electrically powered one. “Such a truck does not have to be more expensive than a diesel truck, manufacturers have assured us”, says Koopman.

No decommissioning for construction

It is not necessary to overhaul the entire highway to construct an eHighway. Moreover, unlike on the railways, no decommissioning is required. “We can build most of the components off the highway. In time we will have to shut off the emergency lane and the right-hand lane, but that’s it.”

The fact that construction is relatively simple does not mean that the construction of an eHighway is an easy job. “The preliminary phase of construction in particular takes a very long time”.

The big advantage of the eHighway, according to Koopman, is that you can potentially remove a lot of CO2 emissions. “Our experience in Germany has shown that if you equip two per cent of all German roads with an overhead line, that is approximately 4,000 kilometers, you eliminate 60 per cent of the total transport-related emissions.”

eHighway costs 2.5 million euros per kilometer

The German Ministry of Transport is investing a lot of money in the project, which is also subsidised with European money. The ministry also shares its experiences with other ministries, including the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, says Koopman.

“There is a lot of interest in other countries. Tests have already been done in some places, while elsewhere there is enthusiasm for such tests with the eHighway. We therefore hope that in time we are able to extend cross-border eHighways in order to connect countries. In the Netherlands, independent research and consultancy firm CE Delft has already indicated that heavy freight traffic could also be served with such a solution ”.

According to Koopman, the A15 between Maasvlakte and Ridderkerk would be the appropriate route to construct an eHighway. “You see quite a lot of traffic driving back and forth there. It’s not an extremely long stretch, so you could do that with a fully electric truck. ”

Koopman is clear about the costs. “An amount of 2.5 million euros per kilometer is considerable, but if you compare it with investments in, for example, charging stations for electric trucks or filling stations for hydrogen trucks, then the eHighway is the cheapest solution.”

Erik Koopman will give a presentation about the eHighway on the Tech Stage of RailTech Europe on Tuesday 30 March from 2.45 to 3.15 p.m. Visit the event website to view the programme and register for free.

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Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor of RailFreight.com and chief editor of the ProMedia Group online magazines.

1 comment op “Highways wired with catenary lines like a railway: is this the future?”

Joël Pichette|20.03.21|00:35

Koopman is clear about the costs. “An amount of 2.5 million euros per kilometer is considerable, but if you compare it with investments in, for example, charging stations for electric trucks or filling stations for hydrogen trucks, then the eHighway is the cheapest solution.”

Right, you pass the fee to the taxpayer.

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