Continental and Siemens to power trucks across Europe with overhead electricity

by Autocar Pro News Desk , 29 Jul 2021


Continental’s development and production service provider, Continental Engineering Services (CES), and Siemens Mobility are collaborating in the development and production of current collectors for trucks, called pantographs.

The aim is to electrify key sections of the highway network with an overhead line system, and thus significantly reduce CO2 emissions from trucks, in line with EU regulation 2019/1242. The new partnership brings together the expertise of two tech majors: Siemens Mobility is a specialist in rail electrification while Continental Engineering Services is a development and production service provider for sophisticated automotive technologies. Both companies are now pooling their expertise in order to achieve volume production of current collectors quickly, thus making them available for widespread  use in Europe.

The eHighway technology supplies trucks with electric drives (e.g., hybrid, fuel cell,  or battery-powered electric trucks) on heavily frequented stretches of highway via an overhead  cable. Trucks can drive completely electrically while also charging their batteries without consuming fuel.

“We are transferring the principle of rail electrification to the road. The current collectors will be developed and produced in accordance with automotive standards. The  partnership between Continental Engineering Services and Siemens Mobility is a major step  toward climate-neutral freight transport,” explains Dr. Christoph Falk-Gierlinger, Managing Director  of CES. 

The eHighway technology developed by Siemens Mobility is already ready for use today. Now, it is  just a matter of developing the current collectors, especially for trucks, so that they can be offered  to commercial vehicle manufacturers cost-effectively and in any desired number of units. “Road  haulage plays a central role in the battle against climate change,” says Michael Peter, CEO of  Siemens Mobility. “In Germany, it causes one-third of the transport sector’s CO2 emissions. Truck  manufacturers are pursuing various concepts towards reduction. With the eHighway, Siemens  Mobility has already created a ready-to-use technology for energy-efficient, cost-effective and  emission-free truck traffic that can be combined with other drives. This may become the backbone  for environmental protection in road haulage.” 

Pantographs for 4,000km of interstate highway 
The key to the eHighway is that not all highway kilometres need to be electrified. The ‘National  Platform for the Future of Mobility’, an innovation initiative of the Federal Ministry of Transport, recommends that 4,000 kilometres of highway be equipped with overhead cable technology by  2030. This is because approximately around two-thirds of fuel consumption by long-distance truck  traffic on German highways takes place on the most frequently used 4,000km of the  13,000km- -long network.

The solution with electricity from the overhead  line corresponds to the rail principle, where only around 60 percent of the rail network is equipped  with overhead cables. However, these are the key sections, which means that more than 90 percent of rail traffic in Germany rolls over the rails with electricity from the overhead line. 

According to a study by the Federal Ministry of Transport, the electrification of German road  haulage on a core network of 4,000km could reduce CO2 emissions by 10 to 12 million  tons annually when electricity is obtained from regenerative sources.