In 2016 Sweden became the first country in the world to actively test a prototype 'electric road', using electricity to assist HGVs travelling on public roadways – the so-called E-Trucks. This year, Germany has become the next country to begin testing their version of a similar system, with continuous trials expected to run into 2018. The trials are seen as an important step in a long-term vision to make haulage jobs throughout Europe more environmentally friendly, by achieving zero carbon emissions. |
The Power of the Open Road
The German trials are taking place along a six-kilometre stretch of the A1 between Reinfeld and Lübeck, in the north of the country. The section of road has been electrified with a system of overhead power lines, along which up to five specially-equipped lorries will carry out regular haulage jobs up and down the route.
The lorries are fitted with what are known as pantographs attached to the roof of the cabin, through which the power is conducted. The conductor feeds the current of 750v DC through to the vehicle's hybrid electric motor and can be set for automatic connection at speeds up to 90kph. The system does not affect any other traffic on the road, with the electric lines held up by posts spaced out along the side of the road at about 50-60m and a transformer (similar to that used in a light rail network) placed at a designated area.
The German project has the backing of that country's Federal Environment Ministry (with funding to the tune of €14 million) and is being conducted by well-known transport company Bude, who counts supermarket giant Lidl among its most important customers. Many of the haulage jobs Bude undertakes for Lidl take their lorries through the busy Scandinavian shipping hub of Lübeck through to Reinfeld, making it an ideal location for the trial.
Although the E-Trucks are still in a relatively new stage of development and testing, the global focus on the reduction of fossil fuels has pushed it to the front of the agenda for many industry heavyweights. Switching to the more environmentally-friendly E-Trucks, where possible, is seen as a significant and sustainable way of reducing or completely ceasing the use of fossil fuels. At almost twice that of regular lorries, the electric vehicles have an efficiency rating of around 80%.
It's expected that companies all over the world will watch this latest German trial with interest, in order to determine the financial and logistical feasibility of investing in the technology of E-Trucks as the future of haulage jobs.
The Way to a Clean Future
Experts believe that these pioneering programmes are a proactive step towards haulage companies reducing their individual carbon footprint and contributing to the creation of smart, environmentally-friendly road networks. Even though it may still be a long way off as yet, with more countries showing support for trials such as this, the vision of a zero-emissions industry is edging closer within reach.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting logistics professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage jobs with available drivers. Over 4,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.
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