According to the UK’s Centre for Sustainable Road Freight, the best way forward for long distance trucks is not hydrogen, as the process is too inefficient converting electricity to a gas, then storing it in a truck and turning it back into electricity again.  It is not a pure battery electric vehicle, as the number of batteries would be too great and weigh too much.

Their view is that overhead lines on motorways is the way forward similar to rail and trolley-bus systems.  Electricity likes travelling in wires, rather than boxes (batteries) so is much more efficient – requiring a smaller amount of electricity generation in the first instance.

Scania overhead cable truck
Trolley-Trucks here we come!

So, Scania are set to join the UK’s major feasibility study into the operation of long haul electrified trucks utilising dynamic charging provided by overhead wires on electric roads. 

This will be the first study of its type to take place in the UK, the aim being to demonstrate to readiness of the technology for a national roll-out.  Scania’s involvement in the study is as part of a consortium whose other members include Siemens Mobility, Costain, The Centre for Sustainable Road Freight (Cambridge University and Heriot-Watt University), ARUP, Milne Research, SPL Powerlines, CI Planning, BOX ENERGI and Possible.

The study is part of the £20m put aside for zero emission road freight trials under the recently-announced Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP).  The Department for Transport has awarded funding to the consortium through Innovate UK, which is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

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 our road freight industry and delivering cleaner air. 

The nine-month study commences this month and is hoped to be the forerunner of a scheme that aims to see the UK’s major roads served by overhead lines by the 2030s. These eHighways allow specially-adapted trucks to attach to the overhead wires and run using the electricity, similar to rail and trolley-bus 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 final destination with zero emissions from start to finish.

James Armstrong, Managing Director for Scania (Great Britain) Limited, says, “Electrifying road freight is key in the UK’s journey to zero net emissions. We have been working with our partners to develop and mature electric road technologies and have demonstrated that they are not only viable but attractive, cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuel-based vehicles for our customers.  This partnership is dedicated to marrying technical excellence with visionary ambition, which is how we will achieve a practical and affordable electric roads system for the freight and logistics industry.”

Trolley-Trucks here we come!