Germany has electrified a portion of the autobahn for eco-friendly trucks

Scania electric truck
Image credit: Scania

Trucking is a mucky business, so German engineers have fitted a three-mile stretch of autobahn with overhead power cables that will provide hybrid vehicles with a constant source of juice as they go about their business hauling goods between Darmstadt and Frankfurt,

Trucks on the eHighway (as the test road is known) use pantographs like those on trams to draw power from the overhead cables. At the end of the line, sensors prompt the vehicles to switch back to their combustion engines.

The cables are suspended from several hundred masts – even under bridges – and provide a source of uninterrupted power. Surplus electricity generated while the trucks are braking is fed back into the system, and if a line is broken it will shut down automatically.

There's even an anti-icing system to avoid the cables becoming frozen and brittle in the frosty German winters. A small test took place last year, but the unusually mild weather meant the lines didn't get a thorough testing.

Haul change, please

The trucks themselves are built by Scania, a Swedish company owned by Volkswagen whose juggernauts rule highways around the world, while the electrical infrastructure was engineered by Siemens.

The project is starting small, with just five of the special vehicles making trips up and down the eHighway each day, but if it works well, the cables could eventually be fitted to 620 miles of Germany's autobahn network – and beyond.