Trucks are guzzling ever more diesel, polluting towns and cities and fueling climate change. Germany thinks it may have found the answer by using overhead lines to power big rigs.
A system that allows trucks to draw electric power from overhead cables went into operation on 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of the autobahn on Tuesday, according to the German government.
It’s the first such test on a public road in Germany.
Developed by Siemens (SIEGY), the system allows big rigs with special equipment mounted on their roofs to connect to electrified lines while traveling at speeds of up to 90 kilometers per hour (56 miles per hour).
The trucks run on electric motors when connected to the overhead lines, and a hybrid system when they return to a traditional road. Sensors detect when the overhead wires are available.
Siemens says its eHighway system combines the efficiency of electric rail with the flexibility of trucking. Another benefit is a sharp reduction in emissions of CO2 and nitrogen oxides.
Siemens argues that the system can be integrated with existing road infrastructure, making it a practical way to reduce emissions and energy consumption in places where railways aren’t feasible.
The section of road opened Tuesday is part of a crucial link between Frankfurt airport, a global freight hub, and a nearby industrial park. Two more stretches of highway with the system will open soon.
The German government spent €70 million ($77 million) to develop trucks that can use the system. Siemens said that a truck owner could save €20,000 ($22,370) on fuel over 100,000 kilometers (62,137 miles).