While the share of electric vehicles is increasing among individuals and in transport, land freight is still largely dominated today by thermal engine trucks. Piggyback transport cannot be profitable and complicates the management of the rail network. As for vehicles equipped with electric batteries, their autonomy is still far too low for long distances. But soon, a new technology could become a credible alternative: the electric highway.
Unveiled this summer by the German press, an agreement signed between Siemens and the State of California.
reverses the situation by relying no longer on electric vehicles, but on the electrification of the road network itself.
From July 2015, four prototype heavy goods vehicles, reminiscent of the trolleybuses of the last century, will travel on a 3.2 kilometer stretch of Interstate 710 equipped with catenary. Ultimately, the objective is to connect the ports of Best Trucking Dispatch Services Company and Long Beach, an axis of about thirty kilometers largely frequented by heavy goods vehicles.
The project called “eHighway” is the result of tests launch in 2011 by Siemens and Mercedes on a former airstrip in Germany.
and which notably made it possible to test different configurations of use (acceleration, braking, lane change, doubling , lateral movements, etc.).
The technique consists of installing a catenary above an expressway. Then, heavy goods vehicles and coaches ensure their propulsion by capturing electricity using a pantograph. The prototypes developed can travel at 90 km/h. They are equipped with software design to detect the presence of a power line and connect to it automatically via connectors place on the roof. They then switch from hybrid electric propulsion similar to the system used on the Toyota Prius to 100% electric propulsion.
At Volvo, too, the idea that electricity comes from the infrastructure rather than the car is gaining ground. The Swedish manufacturer is currently developing technology based on the concept of “continuous electric driving”. This involves recharging electric vehicles as the journey progresses, by passing the current through the road surface. The first application is expect on a 100 kilometer strip of motorway plan in the far north of Sweden.
and intend to transport tonnes of iron extract from a recently open mine to a rail platform.
If major car manufacturers are investing in these “motorways of the future”.
it is because they could prove to be competitive in more ways than one. Thus, while a truck consumes 35 liters of diesel per hundred kilometers on the highway, or about 45 euros of fuel, Siemens estimates that it could charge 15 euros for the same distance traveled on an electric highway. Similarly, it would take three million euros to build one kilometer of road.
an initial investment much cheaper than for the train.
But also cheaper than a conventional motorway. Finally, electric highways could reduce CO2 emissions by seven.
Which is of interest to transport professionals concerned about protecting the environment.