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SCAQMD funding Siemens test of eHighway overhead catenary system for electric trucks in California

Siemens and Scania have been conducting joint research into the electrification of road freight traffic with a focus on optimizing the integration of the drive system and pantograph into the vehicle and on providing the necessary traffic control systems. Copyright: Scania. Click to enlarge.

Siemens will conduct trials of its eHighway system (earlier post) in California on a two-mile (3.2 km) stretch of highway after installing a catenary system for electric and hybrid trucks in the vicinity of the largest US ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The company was awarded the associated contract by Southern California’s South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The objective is to eliminate local emissions such as nitrogen oxides completely and to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and cut the operating costs of trucks. The test results should be available in the summer of 2016, and will indicate the suitability of the systems for future commercial use.

(The Board of the SCAQMD had originally awarded a contract to Siemens for the overhead catenary project at the April 2013 Board meeting—but contingent upon receiving up to $8,000,000 from the ports and other entities. Delays by the ports in providing the funds were putting the project funding from other entities at risk, so earlier this year, the board removed the contingency and authorized executing a contract with Siemens in an amount not to exceed $13,500,000.)

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are seeking an emission-free solution (“Zero Emission I-710 Project”) for a section of Highway 710, which carries a high proportion of shuttle truck traffic. The 30-kilometer (18.6-mile) route links the two ocean ports and the railroad transshipment centers inland.

As part of the installation of the eHighway systems, two lanes of Alameda Street in the city of Carson, California, are being electrified via a catenary system.

On the road, E-trucks equipped with hybrid drive and smart current collectors will be supplied with electricity from catenaries, offering local zero-emission operation. In conjunction with vehicle manufacturer Mack, a member of the Volvo Group, and local truck conversion specialists, Siemens is developing up to four demonstration vehicles.

The smart current collectors permit overtaking maneuvers and automatic hook-up and disconnection at speeds up to 90 km/h (56 mph). On normal roads without overhead lines the vehicles make use of a hybrid system which can be operated alternatively with diesel, compressed natural gas or via a battery.

Top: Siemens has developed an actively moveable pantograph. This enables automatic connection to/disconnection from the overhead contact line at speeds of up to 90 km/h and also automatic compensation of all vehicle movements within the electrified lane. Depending on the operation mode, the pantographs can be raised or lowered automatically or even manually at the touch of a button and enable full vehicle flexibility in comparison with trolley buses or hybrid trucks in open-cast mining.

Bottom: The trucks are always driven by an electric motor. On electrified routes, the electric motor takes its power from an overhead contact line. The pantograph transmits the power from the overhead contact line to the HGV’s drive system.

The HGV is also equipped with an engine for non-electrified routes. This engine drives an onboard generator which in turn generates the power required to drive the electric motor. When overtaking other vehicles or operating on non-electrified routes, the vehicle can change over to conventional diesel engine operation or operation on an energy storage system. Click to enlarge.

Our highway technology eliminates local emissions and is an economically attractive solution for freight transport on shuttle truck routes. Long Beach and Los Angeles, the two US ports generating the most traffic, can benefit hugely from our technology.

—Matthias Schlelein, head of Siemens Division Mobility and Logistics in the US



No engine noise, no local emissions.

The public reaction is bound to be interesting.


Probable public reaction: "Those overhead cables are an eyesore. I don't like this."


And if it results in a push to move the traffic to e.g. an elevated railway, and that railway gets automated (since nobody needs to steer any more)... lousy for the unions, but even cheaper to operate and gets the traffic completely off the roads.


Short of some magic lithium air batteries, this is probably the most practical way to electrify heavy trucking. I would rather see electrified railroads but the shuttles they are talking about are moving the containers from the ports to the railroad yards.


A catenary / battery system is probably the best way for all long range electric road transport. The batteries make it flexible for shunting / loading, the catenary for longer runs and recharging.

Same as the Swedish Busbarr systems (same idea anyway).
I wonder how much each electric cab costs ?


Electrics up-hill take their toll on the supply line.
The chicken coop wires in the pantograph system just do not cut it.
What's needed is the ELFOSS System, that I designed a few years ago. It is universal for all vehicles on the road, irrespective of their MW requirements.
Maybe now is the time to get serious.

José DeSouza

Awesome! Now adapt the same concept to an AltairBusSolutions series hydraulic hybrid bus: (but remove the diesel engine first and put an electric motor in its place) and you get the coolest, infrastructure-lean trolleybus ever designed. No oil burnt, no pollution and no noise. Wouldn′t you leave your car at home and ride such a green bus? Hey, why hasn′t anyone thought of that yet?

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