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Siemens building first stretch of eHighway on public roads in Germany

Siemens has been commissioned by the German state of Hesse to build an overhead contact line for electrified freight transport on a ten-kilometer stretch of autobahn. The line will supply electricity for the electric drive of a hybrid truck. Siemens originally presented its innovative “eHighway” concept in 2012. (Earlier post.) The system will be installed on the A5 federal autobahn between the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange.

With this field trial, the eHighway will be tested on a public highway in Germany for the first time.


Siemens will be responsible for the planning, construction and, as an option, maintenance of the system. The system is being built as part of the joint project “Electrified, innovative heavy freight transport on autobahns” (ELISA) of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). Hessen Mobil, responsible for road and transport management in Hesse, is managing the project.

Construction of the system will demonstrate the feasibility of integrating overhead contact systems with a public highway. The system will be used for real transport networks, and prove the practicality of climate-neutral freight transport in the urban region of Frankfurt.

—Gerd Riegelhuth, Head of Transport of Hessen Mobil

The eHighway is twice as efficient compared to internal combustion engines. The core element of the system is an intelligent pantograph on the trucks combined with a hybrid drive system. Trucks equipped with the system operate locally emission-free with electricity from the overhead line and automatically switch to a hybrid engine on roads without overhead lines.



The only real question is the cost of the infrastructure. It might be cheaper than fuel cells and hydrogen. A potentially better solution would be moving containers on trains but the distances might not be long enough to be cost effective.

The electrified highway solution is probably less cost effective in North America with the longer distances but containerized rail works reasonably well here over longer distances but we need to electrify our major freight rail lines. However, that is not cost effective with the contemporary low cost of diesel fuel.


FC trucks may be more economical when diesel trucks users have to pay for all damages they do.

A progressive increase in diesel oil (over the next 5 to 10 years) from $2.50/gal to $7.5+ or until such time as average H2 price is lower than diesel oil.


Fuel cells make more sense for sustainable long haul.


Hard to imagine performance of such freight troleybus. What will be load of the line in case multiple electrical trucks traveling and at the same time charging their batteries? What would be cost of infrustructure?


Bit of a chicken and egg problem here, especially when oil is cheap.
It sounds like a solution to the range problem for trucks: let them charge on the go. As long as the trucks have reasonable battery capacity (or diesel generators), you do not need 100% coverage along the route.
You would have to ask how much extra wind resistance the connections would cause when not in use and how long before something bashes into the pylons (or when a major load cannot use the motorway).
Another problem is that it is so tall that cars and vans can't use it.


It looks as good (or as awful) as the Chigago overhead subs?

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