Those overhead cables that some cities employ to keep electric trains and buses running are being used in a new and exciting way. One stretch of German highway just got a high-tech upgrade, but those big overhead power lines weren’t installed to power buses or trains—but hybrid trucks!
Earlier this week, just over six miles of the autobahn welcomed the upgrade in a test that may completely transform the way we transport goods. It is the first ever test of this type on a public road in Germany.
The section of highway that opened with the improvements on Tuesday is an integral part of a global freight hub, connecting Frankfurt’s airport with an industrial park. Two more stretches of electrified highway are set to open soon.
“Electrified trucks are particularly efficient solution on the road to carbon-neutral transportation,” said State Secretary Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter at the German Federal Ministry for the Environment.
German conglomerate Siemens first developed the eHighway system back in 2012. The system allows hybrid trucks to charge their batteries via connection to the overhead cables when they’re traveling at speeds up to 56 mph. A sensor notifies the driver when its time to switch back to the traditional combustion engine when, for example, there are no overhead cables available.
Stretches of highway using the technology have also been built on a smaller scale in both Sweden and the U.S. state of California, near Los Angeles and Long Beach.
According to Siemens, utilizing the overhead cables will allow for a reduction in carbon emissions and fuel consumption in areas where railways don’t exist and aren’t feasible to build. The eHighway system combines the many perks of an electrical rail system with the flexibility of transporting goods by truck. According to the International Transport Forum, part of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “road transportation of goods will also account for 15% of the projected increase in global CO2 emissions until 2050.”
Germany’s government spent spent $77 million to develop the trucks able to use the eHighway system. Siemens claims that a single truck owner will save $22,370 on fuel over 62,137 miles.