Sweden’s eHighway-more efficient than conventional engines

The new e-highway near Stockholm has been dubbed “the world’s most advanced stretch of pavement.”
Published: Mon 11 Jul 2016

The world relies heavily on trucks when it comes to freight transport and while the carbon footprint for a freight truck is much greater than any car, SUV, or small truck, so far no one has come up with a “green” solution.

While battery storage in EVs carrying 1814 to 2721 pounds of vehicle and passengers is a viable option, trucks carrying 80,000 pounds of freight over long distances presents a very different situation. As a result, a solution for “greening-up” trucks remains unsolved.  

“Green” trucks

Siemens and truck manufacturer Scania may be getting closer to coming up with a solution. The companies are testing an electrical system which has the potential for solving at least part of the big truck/big carbon challenge.  

Siemens and Scania are using a 2km stretch on the E16 road near the city of Gavle, located north of the capital, Stockholm, to test the feasibility of an electric highway for trucks. Siemens designed the electrical wire system and Scania adapted two trucks with a diesel-hybrid drive capable of running on electric power from an overhead grid when available and automatically switching to diesel power when they move off the overhead grid. The Siemens/Scania system design lets the trucks switch connections and maintain speeds up to 90km/h (55 miles per hour). Hybrid systems will be critical during the transformation from fossil fuel to all-electric trucks.

The trial “eHighway” lets hybrid trucks, manufactured by Scania, draw power through an overhead power system called a catenary, very similar to the systems used by street cars and trams for over a century.

A pantograph power collector mounted on the truck's frame behind its cab rubs against the line and supplies electric power to the trucks. Since there is no physical lock between the vehicle and the electric line, the truck is free to move in and out of the lane as necessary.

When the trucks are connected to the power lines, their internal combustion engines shut off, eliminating emissions from exhaust pipes. The trucks will revert back to using diesel once off the power grid. Given that much of Sweden's power is generated from wind turbines and solar panels, the environmental impact of the e-highway and the Scania trucks is minimal.

The Scania trucks are based on the manufacturer's G360 which is a  biofuel-powered 9l, 360hp parallel hybrid powertrain. A 5kWh battery gives these vehicles a 3km electric-only range when they are not travelling on the e-way.

Sweden’s pledge to clean up transport

Sweden has pledged to transform its transportation system to run fossil fuel- and emissions-free by 2030, and like the rest of the world depends on trucks. 

“By far the greatest part of the goods transported in Sweden goes on the road, but only a limited part of the goods can be moved to other traffic types,” said Anders Berndtsson, chief strategist at the Swedish Transport Administration. “That is why we must free the trucks from their dependence on fossil fuels, so that they can be of use also in the future … Electric roads offer this possibility and are an excellent complement to the transport system,” he added.

The Swedes are no strangers to electrification; they also recently won an all-electric rail car competition, which could point toward an alternative method of transporting goods in the future.

Siemens is also planning another e-highway test route in California in 2017, another region which takes clean energy seriously.

Sweden’s clean energy plans

The push for cleaner transportation falls in line with Sweden’s continued push towards clean energy goals.

The development and implementation of green technologies has enabled Sweden to become the first country in Europe to meet the renewable energy targets set by EU for 2020. In fact, the country is eight years ahead of schedule. This has been partly due to industry demand and the rapid adoption of new technologies.

Renewable technologies are being used in Sweden across all sectors, and there is a strong correlation between economic growth and reductions in waste and greenhouse gases, the optimum use of natural and human resources, and the production and conservation of energy through ongoing innovation.