Electric trucks

There has been a steady rise in road freight transport services over the years, and current forecasts predict further growth. Efficiency improvements for diesel powertrains alone are insufficient to achieve the climate protection targets agreed by the international community. Rather, alternative energy sources and drive forms must also be introduced for trucks. With the growing proportion of renewable energies in power generation, electric drivetrains offer an opportunity to forge ahead with decarbonisation in freight transport.

In small commercial vehicle classes, which are used primarily for short-range deliveries, electrification using a battery is often possible and is already being investigated in numerous projects, and in some cases put into practical operation. The benefits of electric drive in terms of greenhouse gas emissions are generally more pronounced here than for passenger cars due to the predominantly intensive use of the vehicles. Also, since delivery vehicles are usually on the move in urban areas, the air quality can benefit from the localised zero emissions.

With long-distance haulage, which is mostly carried out by heavy goods vehicles (primarily articulated trucks), fully battery-powered journeys are not feasible in the near future owing to the limited range. Current research in looking into increasing opportunities for electricity transfer during the journey. Catenary-hybrid trucks which can be operated electrically using traction current from an overhead catenary line, facilitate a drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and an extremely efficient use of renewable electricity when driven extensively under electric power (using renewable electricity). This technology can overcome the technical limitations of modern battery storage (energy density, charging capacity, weight) provided that an efficient infrastructure is built. There are currently plans to establish two test routes to supply electricity via an overhead catenary system on German motorways. The first of these should be operational in late 2018.

The introduction of a catenary system for lorries presents enormous logistical, economic and operational challenges. The Projekt roadmap for an overhead catenary system for trucks aims to investigate these challenges from a systematic perspective under the leadership of the ifeu Institute. The project focusses on:

  1. Suitable applications for an overhead catenary system for trucks
  2. Potential expansion pathways for the system and its logistical and technical energy challenges
  3. Setting the requisite parameters for system launch

Any initial findings from this project will be entered here as soon as they are available.