Germany to build electric highway

Germany's Hesse plans to build a new eHighway which will supply power for the electric drive of hybrid trucks along a 10km stretch of autobahn.
Published: Thu 17 Aug 2017

German engineering company Siemens has been awarded the contract to plan, build and maintain the overhead contact line for electrified freight transport on the A5 federal autobahn which runs close to Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange. 

The eHighway, financed by both the state and federal governments, is said to be twice as efficient when compared to internal combustion engines. Not only will energy consumption be halved, it will also help towards reducing air pollution in the area significantly, according to Siemens.

This will be the first test of eHighway in Germany on a public highway, as well as the first field trial of the eHighway concept which Siemens originally presented in 2012.

eHighway economically viable

The main element of the system is an intelligent pantograph on the trucks combined with a hybrid drive system. Trucks equipped with the system operate locally emission-free with electricity from the overhead line and automatically switch to a hybrid engine on roads where there are no overhead lines. Siemens says that its solution allows the truck to travel at up to 90 km/h.

“Construction of the system will demonstrate the feasibility of integrating overhead contact systems with a public highway. The system will be used for real transport networks, and prove the practicality of climate-neutral freight transport in the urban region of Frankfurt,” said Gerd Riegelhuth, head of transport, Hessen Mobil.

“With the eHighway, we’ve created an economically viable solution for climate-neutral freight transport by road. Our technology is an already existing and feasible alternative to trucks operating with internal combustion engines,” says Roland Edel, chief technology officer of the Mobility Division.

The system is being built as part of the joint project “Electrified, innovative heavy freight transport on autobahns” (ELISA) of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

Highways go electric globally

Sweden introduced the idea of an “electric highway” last year, using electric cables that connect to trucks instead of charging stations.

Canada currently boasts the world’s largest highway with fast-charging stations, spanning 10,000 km, and the U.S. is building a similar West Coast Electric Highway in Oregon, Washington and California. Australia has also just announced that it will be building Queensland’s Electric Super Highway which will be 2,000km, stretching from the Gold Coast on the state’s southern border to Cairns in the far north. Eighteen charging stations will span the highway, all that allow vehicles charge in 30 minutes.