Electric Trucks: Can We Rely on a 150-Year-Old Technology?
Published On Jun 27, 2016
In a giant leap towards fossil-free transportation, Sweden recently opened the world’s first electric road near the city of Gävle. This mega achievement is the result of continuous innovation by leading solutions providers and a contemporary approach by commercial vehicle (CV) makers who have readily adopted these technologies. One of the major advances of late has been the introduction of electric trucks and these vehicles are slowly changing current trends.
What are Electric Trucks?
Electric trucks are simply those trucks which run on electricity. Many CV makers are also coming up with hybrid electric trucks that use a combination of internal combustion engines and electric propulsion. Electric tractors have been built as early as the 1990s and one of the surviving electric vehicles from this era is the Chevy S-10 electric pickup. Electric trucks have been used for a range of applications and include pickup trucks, semi-trailer and tractor trucks, haulage trucks, off-road and mining trucks.
What old technology are we talking about?
As the world makes its move from fossil fuels to newer technologies, the technologies themselves can be expensive and cumbersome. In case of battery operated trucks, driving a semi-truck for 800 km requires a massive 23 ton lithium battery, almost half of the truck’s weight. To travel the same distance, fuel cells need a huge $2 million hydrogen fuel tank. Also, wireless charging coils in road beds can burn a hole in the stakeholders’ pockets and may not be that efficient.
The best solution would be the plain, old catenary system where overhead electrical wires supply the power by using pantographs. Catenary was invented in 1870s and since then has powered numerous trains and street cars. Safe, sustainable and energy efficient, these vehicles, through the pantograph, come in mechanical and electrical contact with the overhead line equipment and provide vital electrical supply.
The catenary system has also improvised a lot over the years. Hybrid trucks can now switch seamlessly between overhead charging and battery power, even when at high-speeds. Although the trucks today are diesel hybrids, however, internal combustion engines can be avoided in the future by incorporating extensive overhead wires and efficient batteries.
How are the global CV masters accepting this technology?
Several global CV manufacturers such as Siemens, Volvo and Scania, along with different government organizations, have already started field trials of electric trucks powered by the catenary system. Creating history, Scania brought the first of these trucks on electric roads in Sweden on June 22, with the aim of eliminating fossil fuel completely from the transportation industry by 2030.
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