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Siemens says it can power unlimited-range electric trucks using a 150-year-old technology

Für das zweite Forschungsprojekt wurde in Groß Dölln eine neue, erweiterte Teststrecke in Betrieb genommen, die den Bedingungen eines realen Betriebs angepasst ist. Die Strecke erhielt eine mit bis zu 90 km/h durchfahrbare Kurve mit einer neu entwickelten, dem Kurvenverlauf angepassten Fahrleitung. Ebenfalls installiert wurden eine Schilderbrücke und ein Kragarm mit Verkehrsschild, wie sie auf Fernverkehrsstraßen üblich sind. Weil die Oberleitung im sicheren Abstand unter den Verkehrsschildern durchgeführt werden muss, wurden Kettenwerk und Tragseil so abgesenkt, dass der Stromabnehmer auch bei voller Fahrt durchgängig Kontakt halten kann. For the second research project a new, extended test track was commissioned in Groß Dölln, Germany. It is tailored to mirror real operating conditions. A bend was added to the track, along with a newly developed contact wire that is adjusted to the shape of the bend and allows vehicles to keep traveling at speeds of up to 90 km/h. Two more features found on most highways were also installed: a gantry and a road sign supported by a cantilever. Since the contact wire has to remain a safe distance beneath the road signs, the catenaries and carrying cable were lowered so that the pantograph can remain in constant contact, even when traveling at full speed.
Siemans AG
Look ma, no gas.
  • Michael J. Coren
By Michael J. Coren

Climate and emerging industries editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

The world’s cargo fleet is moving from fossil fuels to electrons. But powering them won’t be simple. With today’s technology, driving a semi-truck 500 miles (804 kilometers) would require a 23-ton lithium-ion battery, half the weight of the truck itself. Fuel cells would need a massive, $2 million hydrogen fuel tank to go the distance. Embedding wireless charging coils in roadbed would be expensive and inefficient.

But an invention first deployed in 1870 to power trains and streetcars might be the perfect fit: catenary, overhead electrical wires commonly found around the world. The German engineering company Siemens, presenting at an electric vehicle conference in Montreal this month, argues it can power unlimited-distance electric trucks with intermittent overhead wires that provide enough energy for fast-moving, long-haul highway journeys.

With on-board batteries added to the trucks, the company estimates all of Germany’s roads could be can be outfitted for long-distance electric hauling with just 4,000 km of wire. Trucks would be able to recharge on highways and operate on battery power while on rural and urban streets. The system would cost a fraction the price of alternatives like hydrogen fuel cells, and deliver as much as €200 billion ($227 billion) in net savings over 30 years compared with other approaches, reports IDTechEx, which attended the presentation.

The technology is ready to go. New advances in catenary systems allow hybrid vehicles to switch seamlessly between overhead charging and battery power at high-speeds. For now, the trucks are diesel hybrids, but extensive overhead wires and efficient batteries would permit the vehicles to eliminate internal combustions engines entirely.

Siemans, joined by Volvo, Scania, and several national and local governments, is already starting field trials. Sweden launched the first such trucks on public roads on June 22 with its E15 test highway north of Stockholm . The country plans to eliminate fossil fuel from its transportation sector by 2030. California’s own eHighway is deploying similar trucks along a 1-mile (1.6 kilometers) stretch between ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach though 2017.

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