Three experiments could help electrify large trucks | Trending Viral hub


Three experiments could help electrify large trucks

With a new EPA rule aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the largest class of trucks in the U.S., companies are experimenting with overhead wires and wireless charging on the roads.

A Scania AB R450 electric cargo truck, second right, powered by overhead power lines drives alongside other non-electric trucks on the A5 motorway.

Overhead cable lines, wireless charging tracks, and battery swapping are three exploratory technologies to drive electrification of the trucking industry.


Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

CLIMATE CABLE | A climate standard for freight trucks released by the Biden administration last week has put new pressure on big truck manufacturers to reduce their carbon pollution.

The industry could take inspiration from experiments that electrify trucks with overhead wires or wireless charging tracks, or by swapping batteries at highway stops.

He The EPA standard is expected to reach about 17 percent of the largest class of carbon-free trucks in the U.S. in eight years, a big test for vehicles that travel long distances with heavy loads.

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“Electrifying trucks poses a much bigger challenge than replacing an internal combustion engine car with an electric car,” said Arjun Thangaraj Ramshankar, Ph.D. Georgia Institute of Technology student who has studied the feasibility of using overhead cables for trucks.

Here are three experiments to watch as the transportation industry undertakes a $1 trillion transition away from diesel fuel.

overhead cables

Truck makers could turn to a 140-year-old technology that has been used around the world for urban trams, passenger trains and public buses: overhead lines.

The so-called eHighway in Lübeck, Germany, and another pilot project near Los Angeles allow hybrid and electric trucks to absorb energy directly from the grid through pantographs extended from their roofs to overhead cables. When they need to change lanes or leave the road, the pantographs automatically retract and the trucks return to engine or battery power.

“We just install those cables on roads instead of railway tracks, and that’s the only difference,” Ramshankar said in an interview. “The environment is new, but the technology is the same.”

Anna Köhn, public relations manager for the German project, said the cables offer advantages over plug-in charging, which may require scheduling time to access the chargers. It also gives drivers a dedicated lane or road, allowing them to avoid unpredictable traffic conditions and means they can keep moving while their batteries charge.

But there are disadvantages. The biggest hurdle is setting up the poles, hanging the cables and connecting them to the grid. The German Federal Ministry of Digitality and Transport estimates that the road overhead cable infrastructure It costs about $2.7 million per mile.

“A lot of capital goes into setting everything up before trucks can run on the road,” Ramshankar said.

He is co-author a study from 2023 that estimated freight trucks running on overhead wires would typically produce fewer carbon emissions than conventional electric trucks over their lifetime. The economics are comparable and largely depend on how widely the technologies are adopted, he said.

Wireless charging roads

Anyone who charges their phone wirelessly is familiar with inductive charging, a technique that uses electromagnetic induction to provide electricity to a device. Israel-based Electreon is now scaling up that technology to power electric vehicles from beneath a road.

The company is testing inductive charging pathways for heavy electric trucks in Sweden and Utah in addition to several projects for electric passenger vehicles throughout Europe, Israel and detroit.

Electreon said it broke the world record for “the longest time and distance ever traveled by an electric passenger vehicle” in 2023 when it drove a Toyota RAV4 Prime 1,200 miles for 100 hours on an inductive charging circuit track built by the company. In Israel. Company officials hope that inductive charging can break the anxiety range That keeps some drivers away from electric vehicles.

But just as phones charge more slowly wirelessly, wireless charging roads could struggle to support heavy trucks. The Toyota RAV4 tested by Electreon weighs one-fifteenth the size of Tesla’s electric semi with a fully loaded trailer, and Expert group’s white paper warns that inductive charging may not supply “sufficient inductive power needed to drive trucks with a large gross vehicle weight.”

Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Transportation Efficiency, an industry group, believes overhead cables and inductive charging tracks “would make sense in certain places,” but expressed concern about the cost of both technologies.

The 1-mile inductive charging highway in Detroit cost $5.9 million, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Electreon did not respond to a request for comment.

Battery change

Roeth is more hopeful about an easier way to charge electric trucks: replacing gas stations with areas to swap out an empty battery for a fully charged one. “More batteries are built than trucks, and instead of charging them quickly, they are replaced quickly,” Roeth said.

China is championing this approach, known as battery swapping. About half of electric trucks sold in the country in 2022 were designed for practice.

However, changing the battery comes with its own complications. Roeth sees three main challenges in this practice: the cost of additional batteries, ensuring a consistent standard of care for those batteries, and potentially smaller batteries that are easier to transport. That could reduce a truck’s single-load range.

Roeth says he’s unsure what the future of trucking will look like and what electrification technology might prevail, but he’s convinced that “basic efficiency will never go out of style.”

When Roeth meets with truckers and fleet owners, he advises them: “Don’t bet against batteries.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2024. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals.


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