Time to electrify... the motorways?

Joe Paxton

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Guardian article - UK government backs scheme for motorway cables to power lorries

Excerpt:
The government will fund the design of a scheme to install overhead electric cables to power electric lorries on a motorway near Scunthorpe, as part of a series of studies on how to decarbonise road freight.

The electric road system – or e-highway – study, backed with £2m of funding, will draw up plans to install overhead cables on a 20km (12.4 miles) stretch of the M180 near Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire. If the designs are accepted and building work is funded the trucks could be on the road by 2024.
[...]

OHL engineers could find themselves in high demand. Maybe.

Before anyone gets too excited (or indeed aggravated) it's worth noting that this funding just covers the design of this trial scheme, and not the actual installation or anything else - so it might never happen.

But Siemens and partners are already trialling their eHighway system at three locations in Germany on public roads (as per this Automotive World article).

Some interesting videos on YouTube too if you search for 'Siemens eHighway'.
 
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Vespa

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Trolleybuses will be making a comeback ;)

I have seen the eHighway clip interesting development.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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There was nearly a disaster on the test route between Reinfeld and Luebeck recently. An overheight transport of cable rolls was stopped just in time.
 

Ken H

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Where will you set the contact wire height. The clearance between a HGV and a motorway bridge soffit is very tight.
How will HGV's overtake each other? An empty HGV will want to overtake a full one on a hill.
How much more will an empty bi-mode HGV weigh? Thats payload gone.
 

Legolash2o

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I'm not sure if I'm a fan of the idea. I hate visible cables and what happens if one breaks? It could be quite damaging to other road users.
 

hst43102

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Surely this would work if the trucks had small batteries included that give them 2 hours running time or so? If they need to overtake, use the battery.
 

Joe Paxton

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Where will you set the contact wire height. The clearance between a HGV and a motorway bridge is very tight.
How will HGV's overtake each other? An empty HGV will want to overtake a full one on a hill.
How much more will an empty bi-mode HGV weigh? Thats payload gone.

Regarding overtaking, this video of the eHighway system being trialled at an unspecified port in the US does address that issue:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s1Vopg3vUc
 

py_megapixel

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You could have a system where the pantograph retracts when the turn indicator is active. Would maybe force the idiots who don't signal on the motorway to change their habits!
 

HSTEd

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How will HGV's overtake each other? An empty HGV will want to overtake a full one on a hill.
They switch to their auxiliary power source?

How much more will an empty bi-mode HGV weigh? Thats payload gone.
Not much to be honest, since we are already going to need hybrid HGVs as it is - so the amount of extra equipment is small.
 

Fawkes Cat

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Thank goodness we won't have to comply with EU standards, and can develop our own system
You do know that trucks have been known to enter and leave the UK from the EU, don't you?

Without having read through all the links, my immediate feeling is that this could be an experiment of limited use: could overhead wires cope with trucks doing 60 mph (how fast do trolley buses go?)? How easy is it for trucks to come on and off a wire - whether to overtake or to leave the wired highway for the last half-mile / five miles /sixty miles to their destination? But I can imagine at least a niche use: if all the crawler lanes on motorways were wired (and how many crawler lanes are there on the UK motorway network? A dozen or so?) could this allow trucks to go up faster, and allow a smaller battery, and allow a smaller internal combustion engine on hybrids? If so, this might allow trucks to be slightly lighter (so cheaper to operate) even with the extra catenary kit.
 

HSTEd

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You do know that trucks have been known to enter and leave the UK from the EU, don't you?

Without having read through all the links, my immediate feeling is that this could be an experiment of limited use: could overhead wires cope with trucks doing 60 mph (how fast do trolley buses go?)? How easy is it for trucks to come on and off a wire - whether to overtake or to leave the wired highway for the last half-mile / five miles /sixty miles to their destination?

If we look at the Swedish/German system the pantographs are traversable and under computer control - if the lorry leaves the lane they simply drop before they lose contact with the wire.

Also large goods vehicles are pretty much all supposed to be limited to 90kph by now.

It's worth noting that about two thirds of all HGV vehicle-miles in England are on the Strategic Road Network - which has a total length of only 4400 miles.

Providing a lane in each direction on all of those roads is 8,800 lane miles - it's a sustantial amount but the benefits are enormous if it is done.
 

SouthernR

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You do know that trucks have been known to enter and leave the UK from the EU, don't you?

Without having read through all the links, my immediate feeling is that this could be an experiment of limited use: could overhead wires cope with trucks doing 60 mph (how fast do trolley buses go?)? How easy is it for trucks to come on and off a wire - whether to overtake or to leave the wired highway for the last half-mile / five miles /sixty miles to their destination? But I can imagine at least a niche use: if all the crawler lanes on motorways were wired (and how many crawler lanes are there on the UK motorway network? A dozen or so?) could this allow trucks to go up faster, and allow a smaller battery, and allow a smaller internal combustion engine on hybrids? If so, this might allow trucks to be slightly lighter (so cheaper to operate) even with the extra catenary kit.
Sorry, I was being facetious.

I also had serious doubts about the viability of such a system. However, if you check some of the videos, it's clear that many of the problems have been recognised at least. This includes catering for different traction modes.
I've not found any reference to the proposed line voltage.

There is another system proposed, to charge vehicles wirelessly from coils in the road surface, which doesn't sound very efficient.

I await the development of an app, that enables you to change your supplier in transit. (facetious again)
 

Vespa

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You would have to consider what voltage its to be set at ?

Heritage trolleybuses and trams ran on 600v DC both of which are capable of running up 60 mph, a few were faster on reserved tracks, modern systems in Britain now run in 750v DC except Blackpool which is still 600v DC

Now to enable British and EU lorries to operate we would need to standardise the voltage across Britain and EU, the Swedish electric lanes are running on 750v DC this would simplify things as the technology used by trans is there already to be used interchangeably, lorries could even share the road using the same wires, the only question would be where would the earth path go in the lorry unless you use a weighted earthing skate on the track to provide that path, the Swedish twin wire set up looks like it has a live and earth wires just like a trolleybus.
 
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gg1

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This could be interesting if combined with guided bus technology, with HGVs running on dedicated, segregated routes for the long distance aspect of their journey then switching to battery power at either end.
 

Aictos

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How far would 2million get you trying to electrify railway lines?
Not very far and that's a safe estimate when you consider potential resignalling, infrastructure clearances, resiting of signals if need be, rolling stock etc...
 

Vespa

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This could be interesting if combined with guided bus technology, with HGVs running on dedicated, segregated routes for the long distance aspect of their journey then switching to battery power at either end.
That would help as the pantograph have to stay under the wires which require lane discipline, trolleybuses got round that by using trolley booms to move round obstacles, so did have batteries for limited off wire movements.

Trolley booms for lorries would be impractical, early Trolleybus Corporation did experiment with electric trollylorries if that's a word, it was limited by short battery range of the era.
 

Bertie the bus

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This looks like one of those things that work fantastically well under controlled conditions where everybody is aware of what they should do and will go horribly wrong very quickly when exposed to the real world.
 

BayPaul

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If we look at the Swedish/German system the pantographs are traversable and under computer control - if the lorry leaves the lane they simply drop before they lose contact with the wire.

Also large goods vehicles are pretty much all supposed to be limited to 90kph by now.

It's worth noting that about two thirds of all HGV vehicle-miles in England are on the Strategic Road Network - which has a total length of only 4400 miles.

Providing a lane in each direction on all of those roads is 8,800 lane miles - it's a sustantial amount but the benefits are enormous if it is done.
It does sound like an excellent idea, and perhaps the only sensible way to de-carbonise the freight network. For all those who say that it should go by rail, IMHO there isn't space for the additional trains, and lorries are so much better for door-door last mile delivery.
If this eventually covers the entire strategic network, I would imagine that lorries could start becoming more light-weight, with diesel engines and fuel tanks replaced with batteries to take them the final distance from the motorway to their origin / destination.
 

UP13

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Better off investing in electrification of rail freight corridors and having short range e-lorries and vans at either end.
 

BayPaul

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Better off investing in electrification of rail freight corridors and having short range e-lorries and vans at either end.
But is there really anything like enough capacity on the rail network. It is pretty much full at the moment, and there is an awful lot of freight going by road. The routing by road is generally much faster door to door, and fits in much better with just in time business, a rail network would need to be hub and spoke. The 'short range' lorries at either end would presumably mean taking this freight in near the centre of cities, so creating huge new depots, which would also concentrate road traffic on a few local roads rather than the strategic road network that is designed for them....

And so on... Much as I prefer rail to road, I just don't think that there is a place for this on the railways, and the cost would probably be far higher.
 

NSEFAN

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But is there really anything like enough capacity on the rail network. It is pretty much full at the moment, and there is an awful lot of freight going by road. The routing by road is generally much faster door to door, and fits in much better with just in time business, a rail network would need to be hub and spoke. The 'short range' lorries at either end would presumably mean taking this freight in near the centre of cities, so creating huge new depots, which would also concentrate road traffic on a few local roads rather than the strategic road network that is designed for them....

And so on... Much as I prefer rail to road, I just don't think that there is a place for this on the railways, and the cost would probably be far higher.
In an ideal world, we would have rolling highways. Normal lorries can then do most of their journey on the rails, which would be more efficient even than an electric lorry. Unfortunately our Victorian loading guage largely puts a stop to that in this country.
 

BayPaul

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In an ideal world, we would have rolling highways. Normal lorries can then do most of their journey on the rails, which would be more efficient even than an electric lorry. Unfortunately our Victorian loading guage largely puts a stop to that in this country.
As does the capacity of the lines. You would effectively need new freight mainlines running the length of the country. I'm not sure that it is more efficient than an electric lorry on renewable electricity - yes the electricity consumption per mile would be lower, but the miles travelled would be significantly higher, and so the number of lorries needed would be greater, and as mentioned before, the journey time would be unlikely to be able to match Just In Time methods. For my mind, this electric highway achieves most of the benefits of your rolling highway, whilst keeping the benefits of the current road haulage system
 

NSEFAN

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As does the capacity of the lines. You would effectively need new freight mainlines running the length of the country. I'm not sure that it is more efficient than an electric lorry on renewable electricity - yes the electricity consumption per mile would be lower, but the miles travelled would be significantly higher, and so the number of lorries needed would be greater, and as mentioned before, the journey time would be unlikely to be able to match Just In Time methods. For my mind, this electric highway achieves most of the benefits of your rolling highway, whilst keeping the benefits of the current road haulage system
Rolling highway trains would need to be frequent enough to allow a turn-up-and-go frequency, and could only realistically be used on core routes between major areas. To an extent, the better rolling resistance of the train would make up for a longer mileage and still give the benefit of reduced freight traffic on the roads. I agree that railway capacity would be a limiting factor, and perhaps it is cheaper to put in OLE for lorries (especially self-driving lorries) than it is to build new railways.
 

SargeNpton

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Wonder how an electrified road would cope when one of those occasional extraordinary loads was being moved?
 

BayPaul

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Wonder how an electrified road would cope when one of those occasional extraordinary loads was being moved?
At a guess, there will probably need to be gaps in the OLE above slip roads anyway, so it would presumably be possible to use the outside lanes for an extraordinary load. As others have mentioned, chances are the OLE would be pretty close to overbridge height though, so perhaps not too much of an impact
 

Ken H

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So assuming we go for low voltage DC, say 750v. How many lorries will be in a section and what power will they draw? This matters because you have to set the circuit breakers at an ampage so they dont keep tripping. But the higher the ampage, the bigger the risk if there is a shorting incident. And if there are loads of trucks in the section, how will the trucks cope with the voltage losses?
Will trucks regen into the overhead? Will they have a failsafe thing so the other brakes come on in case the line suddenly cant take their regen power?
And anyway, regen will have limited use, because the trailer brakes wont regen so lots of energy will still be wasted (unless we have loads of special trailers to allow regen)
 

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