01 Mar 2024, 13:01
Sören Amelang

German catenary truck test yields positive results, but critics see waste of money


The evaluation of a pilot scheme to test catenary trucks in Germany says that the technology works to lower transport emissions, but critics warn the trial should be scrapped because a large-scale application is unrealistic. An initial assessment of a trial track in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein concluded that trucks’ CO₂ emissions could be reduced by around half with the current electricity mix, and that a growing share of renewables would make them even more climate-friendly, reports newswire dpa. "The vehicles are now running reliably overall and could already bridge larger overhead line gaps," explained Klaus Lebert from Kiel University of Applied Sciences. Thanks to an installed battery, the trucks cover 50 percent of the pilot track powered by electricity, even though overhead powerlines are only installed on 20 percent. The hybrid vehicles then use petrol for the remaining 50 percent of the route.

Catenary trucks are a very energy-efficient technology to reduce emissions from road freight transport, and the “E-Highway” in Schleswig-Holstein is one of three pilot projects in Germany to test overhead lines in real life operation. But many experts doubt that the technology stands a realistic chance of being rolled out on a larger scale because of the necessary infrastructure investments, which would also be required in neighbouring countries. There have also been rapid advances in using battery-electric trucks, without the need for catenaries. This is why the regional taxpayers' association called for an end to the pilot scheme, which is meant to run until the end of the year. Although the technology had proven to be technically feasible, there were considerable doubts about its economic viability, said the association’s managing director, Rainer Kersten. "In view of the Europe-wide transport flows, large parts of the European motorway network would otherwise have to be equipped with overhead lines," he said, adding this would be too expensive and was not foreseeable.

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