The UK’s Department for Transport has awarded funding through Innovate UK to a consortium to undertake the UK’s first ever study on the electrification of long-range trucks with dynamic charging, using overhead wires on motorways.
The study is part of the £20m assigned for zero emission road freight trials under the recently announced Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP). The Costain-led consortium includes Siemens Mobility, Scania, The Centre for Sustainable Road Freight (Cambridge University and Heriot-Watt University), ARUP, Milne Research, SPL Powerlines, CI Planning, BOX ENERGI and Possible.
Costain’s Sue Kershaw, managing director transportation, said, “This study is another important step towards understanding how industry could work together to tackle one of the largest carbon emission producers in the country and create a cleaner, greener and more efficient road freight network across the UK.”
Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) currently emit 18% of all road vehicle CO2 emissions, despite only representing 1.2% of the total number of vehicles on the road and 5% of the total miles driven. They are, however, essential to the health of the UK economy, with the new plan citing them as “critical to our economic wellbeing,” transporting 98% of our food, consumer, and agricultural products across the country.
The consortium has proposed an ‘electric road system’, using the Siemens Mobility ‘eHighway’ technology, as the fastest, lowest carbon and most cost-effective route to decarbonising the road freight industry and delivering cleaner air. The nine-month study starts is a trial for a plan that could see the UK’s major roads served by overhead lines by the 2030s.
The eHighway technology allows adapted trucks to attach to the overhead wires and run using the electricity, similar to rail and tram systems. The trucks come equipped with a battery that charges while they are in motion so they can detach to both overtake vehicles and reach their destination with zero emissions from start to finish.
Consortium members Siemens Mobility, Scania and SPL have previously trialled smaller electric road systems in Germany and Sweden, with this UK initiative being the first in the world to investigate deploying it at a much larger scale.
The project will look at electrifying at least 30km of the M180 motorway, linking Immingham Port with the logistics hubs of Doncaster and its airport. The partners plan to take the lessons learned from Europe, and provide technical, economic, and environmental recommendations for installing a proof-of-concept system with a bigger demonstration fleet.
Professor David Cebon, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight (Cambridge University and Heriot-Watt University), said, “Our previous research says that overhead catenary power will provide the lowest cost, lowest carbon, and most rapidly deployable solution to decarbonise long-haul road freight in the UK. This project will test the concept at the next level of detail. Moreover, the technologies this consortium is working on could be deployed in most countries once demonstrated, supporting the global move towards greener logistics.”