Germany Opens First Electric Highway to Charge Hybrid Semi-Trucks

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【Summary】The electric highway features overhead wires that will allow hybrid semi-trucks to recharge their batteries while on the move.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 16, 2019 9:57 AM PT
Germany Opens First Electric Highway to Charge Hybrid Semi-Trucks

Germany seems like the last place electric vehicles and technology would be gaining traction, but that's exactly what's happening. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen are all based out of Germany and have lengthy ties to diesels. Yet the country is making headlines for being the first to introduce a section of "eHighway" that recharges a hybrid semi-truck's batteries while on the move.

Charging Semi-Truck Batteries Without Stopping

The stretch of highway spans six miles and is located on Germany's A5 autobahn near Frankfurt. The eHighway is currently open and utilizes overhead cables that are pumping out 670 volts to let electrified semi-trucks recharge their batteries without stopping. For everyone else, there are charging stations along the German Autobahn.

Siemens AG, a Munich-based engineering firm, developed the system, according to Bloomberg, while VW AG's Scania truck arm provided the semis. Volkswagen isn't the only automaker looking into electric semi-trucks, as Daimler came out with its own battery-powered semi at the beginning of last year. While coming out with overhead cables that charge hybrid semi-trucks on the fly sounds like it would require revolutionary thinking, the technology behind the road is similar to what's currently used for trains or trams.

Business Insider claims that the program is called Elisa (electrified innovative heavy traffic on the Autobahn). It's what the outlet calls an "environment-ministry-sponsored" project involving Siemens and authorities from Hesse.

How Will The eHighway Be Used?

As always, there are a few teething things that eHighway will have to go through before it becomes more widespread. For an unspecified amount of time, only five trucks will be allowed to run on the stretch of road. This, probably, is a way to judge just how useful the electrified highway will be, as approximately 135,000 semi-trucks account for 10 percent of the road's daily vehicles. The trucks will also have to be traveling at speeds of less than 56 mph to ensure a successful connection between the conductor rods (pantographs) and the overhead cables is made.

So far, the stretch of road will undergo testing until 2022. After that date, the government will have the opportunity to expand the project if they choose to do so. The project, even in its early stages, has already cost the German government a pretty penny of roughly $15.7 million dollars.

The project may be expensive, but it could pay off in the long run. Siemens claims that the electrified highway could save a 40-ton semi-truck approximately $22,000 in fuel costs over 62,100 miles. Once the highway becomes open to more than just five trucks, especially if it goes into effect where it allows 135,000 semis to get electricity from overhead cables, the savings become worth the hefty cost to upgrade.

Germany is rapidly aiming to curb its greenhouse-gas emissions in the upcoming years. The country is aiming to cut emissions by 40 percent by 2020, which then becomes 55 percent by 2030, and 95 percent by 2050. The eHighway is a great start to cutting emissions. It's also not the only one of its kind in the works. Apparently, two more eHighway tracks are in the process of being built, both of which are in Germany.

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