Driving the electric highway
In 2019, Germany opened its first-ever section of electric highway (or ‘eHighway’), which allows hybrid goods trucks to charge their batteries on the move. The technology on a 5-kilometer stretch of autobahn near the city of Frankfurt uses 670-volt direct-current overhead cables that allow hybrid trucks to draw power on the go.
The program, called ELISA (electrified innovative heavy traffic on the Autobahn), is sponsored by the German environment-ministry. The technology is predicted to save 40-ton truck 16,000 euros ($18,000) in fuel costs over 100,000 kilometers and could cut 7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions if the scheme is expanded to 30% of truck traffic in Germany.
The electric-diesel hybrid trucks traveling this highway have conductor rods attached to the top of the cabin. When these connect with the overhead powerlines stretching the length of the 5-kilometer route, the lorries draw power from the cables. This means that not only can they travel the length of the route using electricity, but they can also recharge their batteries at the same time.
Luckily for us, this innovation comes at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place, because it allows us to transform the way we transport goods between our Darmstadt site and partners in Frankfurt.
"Back in the early planning phase, we expressed our willingness to be part of the ELISA project because we're part of the target group for this technology,” says Bernhard Scholz, Head of On-Site Logistics at our Darmstadt site.
“Our drivers travel this section of the highway every day. The eHighway will help us achieve our goal of reducing fuel consumption and with it, carbon emissions.”
Starting in early July, our new truck, developed by Scania, will complete up to five tours per day on the eHighway – meaning it will use the overhead lines up to ten times a day. Six of our truck drivers had already been trained to use the technology, which meant we could start immediately.
As part of the pilot phase for ELISA, we’ll be gaining and sharing experience in the practical operation of the specialized trucks. The most important questions to answer include: how much electricity is taken from the overhead line; how much energy does the truck consume during electrical operation; how much fuel can be saved; and to what extent can emissions be reduced? And of course, tests will be conducted to see whether the technology works reliably in everyday operation.
The trial is scheduled to last until early 2022. We’re hopeful the results could see us leading the way to a more environmentally friendly future for the transportation of heavy goods.
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