A couple of projects being pursued by Scania are intending to drastically reduce fuel use by using electrical power to provide power to a truck on roads with overhead or underground power lines. The trucks are fitted with pantographs, similar to those used on trams or use wireless charging.
Scania and, German electrical giant, Siemens are running trials with electrically powered trucks using overhead power lines. The first series of trials involve ensuring satisfactory contact between the pantograph unit and the overhead wires. The pantograph is as wide as the truck, 2.6 metres, to ensure uninterrupted contact with the overhead wires and to allow the truck to change its position in the lane.
Unlike trams, the truck is not limited to roads where overhead wires are available. When the truck leaves the electrified area the diesel engine fires up and takes over providing the power. The tests are taking place in Berlin on Siemens 2 km test track.
“Systems with overhead lines are especially suitable in regular transport routes from point to point, such as between steel mills and ports and between mines and processing plants,” said Christer Thorén at Scania’s Hybrid Systems Development Department.
At the same time, Scania is working with Bombardier to test wireless inductive electric charging from roads. These trials, also in Germany, at Bombardier’s facility in Mannheim, are testing inductive energy transfer. The truck is fitted with a 2-metre wide electric power pickup under the chassis, this wirelessly collects power from coils buried under the road surface.
Scania says 200 kW power is transferred across an air gap of up to 100 mm between the road and truck. This power is used to provide motive power to the truck as well as charge the onboard battery to provide power when the truck is not on an electrified route.
Currently, the testing process is concentrating on maximising the charging as the truck passes over the embedded system. Road position and ride height are critical to improve performance. Energy losses due to small deviations need to be minimised to get the kind of electrical charge needed.
Wonderful though this technology would appear, the possibility of anything developed in this program appearing on Australian roads is just about zero. However, this does demonstrate how sophisticated economies like Europe are likely to overcome high fuel prices and reduce carbon emissions in the future.
The European continent is crowded and the relatively short distances between cities means technologies like the ones being developed by Scania will probably be used in the future. Some kinds of hybrid drivetrains are likely to be needed in Australia. The more development dollars being poured into them now is likely to feed into better overall electrical drive trains in the future for Australia, if and when we need them.