Catenary truck in practical test |

The first electric highway started in Germany four years ago. After more than 500,000 kilometers, the result of the test operation is positive.

In May 2019, the first trucks were on the busy route between Langen and Weiterstadt on the A5 in Hesse, which – similar to the Salzburg trolleybuses – docked with a pantograph to an overhead line and thus obtained the energy to operate the electric motor. Five kilometers are currently electrified with overhead lines in both directions on the route. An extension of almost seven kilometers is currently being worked on in the southbound direction.

Overhead line infrastructure for trucks is ready for use

According to the responsible Autobahn GmbH, the technical feasibility and suitability for everyday use of the operational processes have been confirmed in the pilot operation that has been ongoing for several years. “In day-to-day operations, the overhead line infrastructure is proving to be ready for use,” according to the verdict of the federal authority responsible for operating Germany’s motorway network.

Seven trucks are currently involved in the project, and this year another five vehicles are to drive on the A5. According to Autobahn GmbH, the infrastructure costs for the first test section were around 13 million euros, with around 12 million more for the expansion. Whether there will be a widespread use of overhead line infrastructure in Germany will be decided at a later date. There are comparable projects in Schleswig-Holstein and Baden-Württemberg.

High costs speak against the expansion of overhead line trucks

If the “National Platform for the Future of Mobility” initiative has its way, pilot projects like this should only be the beginning. In Germany, the authority even recommends overhead lines on around 4,000 kilometers of motorway by 2030.

A cooperation between the development service provider Continental Engineering Services and Siemens Mobility is to develop and mass-produce the pantographs for the trucks. They should then be offered to commercial vehicle manufacturers at low cost, so that many trucks will be equipped with them. Nevertheless, it remains questionable whether overhead line trucks will prevail in practice. The main arguments against this are the relatively high construction and maintenance costs, questions of technical compatibility and payment modalities. Lots of trucks drive through countless European countries in which such concepts are not yet relevant.

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