DSV has joined a longer-running research project to electrify road freight, run by Hessen Mobil, a sub-department of the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing, responsible for roads and traffic. ELISA is Germany’s first eHighway and the testbed for electric heavy commercial vehicles to charge their batteries using electricity supplied via an overhead catenary.
Currently the testbed on both sides of the highway between Frankfurt and Darmstadt on Germany’s A5 Autobahn [highway], and operational since 07MAY19, is 10 km long. 112 overhead poles have been
erected in the direction of Frankfurt, and 111 in the Darmstadt direction. The stretch will soon be extended to 17 km. The idea is that electric trucks will, in future, be able to charge while
driving, using the overhead contact line. DSV has opted to participate in the project, with a view to more sustainable, long-distance road freight transports.
My, my, my, ELISA!
DSV has been testing the concept with the help of a subcontracted driver since the beginning of FEB23, transporting customers' goods to and from Frankfurt Airport. The easy, on-the-go charging of an electric vehicle while en route, helps to eliminate downtime normally on charging, and – if the test is successful – can facilitate the transition to electric long-distance trucks. All necessary test data such as battery charging state, or fuel rate, and 148 other parameters, is transmitted via a data logger/roof sensor on the truck to the overhead line and onto the researchers from the Institute of Transport Planning and Traffic Engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt. This is followed up with weekly evaluation interviews with the driver. Søren Schmidt CEO, DSV Road, commented: “We are excited to provide daily data from actual operations, which can help in the development of the eHighway. The ELISA eHighway project is a great example of collaboration in and between the industry and academia, which will be absolutely critical as we work towards a sustainable solution to the biggest challenge of our time.” Real-life research data from a real-life traffic situation.
Eva Kaßens-Noor, Professor at the Technical University of Darmstadt, added: “The benefits of a collaboration between academia and the industry are the synergies between both: new research-driven innovations can infuse the development of novel technologies. Thus, we jointly advise policy makers through a cutting-edge, collaborative, and interdisciplinary approach to transform our traffic system towards sustainable and climate-resilient systems.”
Why, why, why, ELISA?
ELISA stands for the German words: “Elektrifizierter, innovativer Schwerverkehr auf Autobahnen” [Electrified, innovative heavy traffic on highways]. There are currently three test tracks in Germany. Aside from the A5 one already mentioned, the second is on the A1 highway between Hamburg and Lübeck in northern Germany, and the third is on the federal road B 462 near Kuppenheim in Baden-Württemberg. Outside of Germany, similar projects exist in Sweden - a test track of roughly 2km length on highway E16 near Stockholm since 2016 – and Los Angeles, where an overhead power line system was installed on the Interstate 710 in 2017.
Highway to health
With a global C02 emissions contribution of 2.2%, 79% of transports happening by road, and a forecasted 38% increase in traffic by 2030 (compared to 2010), Germany needs to get active on less environmentally damaging solutions. Hessen Mobil is convinced: “To meet climate protection goals, vehicles will have to use electricity-based fuels in future. The direct use of electricity is most efficient [and] electric vehicles will be central to the green transition of the industry. But today, there are considerable limitations that hinder a smooth and successful shift to especially long-distance electric trucks.”
DSV, too, has its own long-term targets for the reduction of carbon emissions, and is not only trialing the Hessen Mobil initiative, but also actively supports other innovation projects that will be crucial for the company’s success in achieving a 30% reduction in its indirect emissions by 2030, and complete net-zero by 2050.
A more positive Evergreen
One of the gripes that many Tesla owners have, is that charging stations are still few and far between, and often busy – hence drivers are delayed in their onward journey. Søren Schmidt, also believes that this kind of bottleneck – or Evergreen – if you prefer, needs avoiding and the eHighway is very much the alternative solution: “Without the right levels of infrastructure, there is a danger that charging stations will be the Suez Canal of road transportation, and the cause of significant delays and congestion for electric vehicles. If the eHighway is established and expanded across Europe, it would create new possibilities when it comes to introducing long-distance electric trucks and offer lower-emission services without any delays for our customers. As a leading company in the industry, we see it as our responsibility to contribute to the early stages of the development of new technologies such as the eHighway.”
Hit the road, Jack!
“The current phase of the project runs until the end of 2024. Project partners are applying for funding for a potential next phase, allowing for further development of the eHighway,” the release ends.
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