It’s not a new idea, but it can ultimately do to highways what electric buses (also called trolleys) have done to European cities – cleaning them of dirty diesel smoke.
The company is converting heavy trucks into hybrid and putting an overhead power line along the highway so that they can run 100% on electricity.
The eHighway electric highway technology has already been implemented in Germany, has been presented at this year’s Electric Vehicle Symposium and is now being implemented in the U.S. in California. The trucks also have a diesel engine that they can use whenever they’re not under the wires and they also feature regenerative braking.
Siemens has specially designed the pantograph that carries electricity between the power line and the truck’s power system and had it closely monitor the connection between them, so everything is as automatic as possible and no driver intervention is needed.
Electric highways are no new invention. As I said earlier, electric buses throughout Europe and other corners of the world already use this system since mid-60s. I have often seen these electric bus drivers (called “wattmen”) realigning their pantographs with the power lines, but I guess the Siemens approach will be more advanced than that.
However, systems like the one commercialized by Witricity transfer the power wirelessly between the grid and the electric vehicle, so there are no wires attached anyhow. Indeed, the efficiency is higher when you connect the wires straightforward, but a wireless system would be more flexible, would be able to power not only trucks but also electric vehicles and will use a lot less cables, whose production harms the environment in a certain degree.
Anyway, the idea of using electric trucks like trolleys is wonderful, let’s see if it catches.