Sweden has opened the world’s first electric highway for trucks fitted with hybrid engines to test a possible route to low-carbon road freight.
The system was inaugurated on 22 June on a 2.2km stretch of the E16 motorway between Sweden and Norway.
It works in the same way as a tram, using overhead lines accessed with extendible pantographs. The lines are supplied by Siemens and the trucks, which are fitted with hybrid electric diesel motors, are made by Scania.
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– Anders Berndtsson, Sweden Transport Administration
The experiment will test two hybrid trucks on the route for the next two years, as part of the Swedish government’s drive to achieve zero fossil fuel transportation by 2030. It has predicted that using electricity from renewable sources to power the trucks will lead to a reduction in carbon of up to 90%.
Siemens says the key innovation is the "intelligent" pantograph, which allows the trucks to connect to the catenary system while travelling at 90km/h.
It claims that a German 40-ton truck running for 100,000km on its eHighway system would realise €20,000 in reduced fuel costs.
Sweden sees the eHighway system as one way of reducing carbon emissions without building railways where none exist now.
"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, according to Siemens.
"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."
A ceremony to open the route was held yesterday at the town of Sandviken in eastern Sweden, attended by Anna Johansson, the infrastructure minister, Ibrahim Baylan, the energy minister and Erik Brandsma, the director-general of the Swedish Energy Agency.
The Swedish trial looks set to beat another planned trial in Los Angeles to the title of world’s first.
Announced in 2014 the LA scheme will see an eHighway system installed on a traffic-clogged artery leading to the Port of Los Angeles.
Image: A Scania hybrid truck on Siemens’ test eHighway in Gross Dölln, Germany (Scania)