Hesse's highway gets a tech boost

The German state of Hesse is working with global tech powerhouse Siemens to build the first eHighway on a public highway in the country, with an overhead contact line for electric freight transport on the A5autobahn. Expected to be completed at the end of 2018, this new highway will help solve the issue of climate-neutral freight transport by road in Frankfurt, cutting energy consumption in half and reducing local air pollution. Let’s take a closer look at this smart city project and how it will transform transportation in the Frankfurt region.— Philippe Leonard


The switch to sustainable highways

Running from the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport to the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange, this 10-kilometre stretch of the autobahn will supply electricity for the electric drive of a hybrid truck.

“With the eHighway, we've created an economically viable solution for climate-neutral freight transport by road. Our technology is an already existing and feasible alternative to trucks operating with internal combustion engines," says Roland Edel, Chief Technology Officer of Siemens Mobility.

These hybrid trucks will run twice as efficiently than they would on petrol or diesel, thereby reducing fuel costs and offering a solution to air pollution by significantly lowering energy consumption. Trucks will be emission-free, running on electricity from the overhead line and switching automatically to a hybrid engine once they are out on the road. For example, a 40-tonne truck driving 100,000 km on an eHighway could offer savings of up to €20,000 in fuel. If 30 percent of truck traffic on German highways runs on electric or renewable resources, this could reduce CO2 emissions by 6 million tonnes.

Last June, Sweden was the first country to open an electric highway for trucks, but the two-year project was executed on a much smaller scale, with only two hybrid trucks running along a 2.2 km stretch of the E16 highway north of Stockholm. This project runs in line with Sweden’s goal of eliminating the usage of fossil fuel-dependent transportation by 2030. But it’s also a solution to reducing carbon emissions without having to build new infrastructure, such as railways.

“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.”

While still in the early stages, these eHighway projects are operating as real life tests to see whether this smart transportation solution will be beneficial for commercial use in the long-run for traffic-heavy cities such as Frankfurt.