Ninety per cent of road transport today uses trucks which run on fossil fuels. Politicians are now showing interest in the use of electrical roads, primarily for heavy goods trucks, to reduce the climate impact.
When Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Sweden this week, the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven highlighted the development of electrified road technology as an example of a field of innovation that can be developed jointly by Sweden and Germany. This is a field that Vattenfall is also working on.
"The technology is developing rapidly and we want to be able to offer a charging infrastructure for all types of road vehicles, including heavy goods trucks. We want to be involved in the development of solutions not on the market today. For this reason, we are participating in a globally-unique project which may be an alternative to the solution using overhead power lines, which has received greatest attention up to now," says Johan Tollin, Head of R&D for e-mobility at Vattenfall.
In Sweden, two unique electrified road projects are included in the Swedish Transport Administration's procurement of innovation, where different solutions will be developed and tested. A two-kilometre stretch of road on the E16 motorway between Sandviken and Gävle was inaugurated last year. This solution consists of an overhead power line running above the road with a pantograph fitted on trucks, which is similar to the technology which has long been used for trains and trams. In Germany, two 12 kilometre-long test stretches are to be built on existing motorways using the same technology, and are scheduled to start operation in 2018.
Another entirely new Swedish technology will be tested from autumn 2017 on a public road north of Stockholm near Arlanda airport.
"We are partners in a development project called eRoad Arlanda, using a unique new technology with an electric rail in the road surface. A two-kilometre long test track is scheduled to be put into operation this autumn, using an electrical truck to transport cargo between a cargo terminal in Rosersberg and Arlanda airport.
One advantage of this new technology is that it can be used by all types of electric vehicles and not just trucks. It also means there are no visible overhead power lines along the road”.
"We think it is important to develop and assess various ways of supplying electrical roads with electricity. There are advantages and disadvantages with all technologies, and of course they need to be tested in practice for a longer period of time and in different weather and road conditions," says Tollin.
Using today's technology, electrical trucks can only manage to travel short distances on batteries. For this reason, electrical roads using various solutions for powering electric trucks and charging batteries en route are now being developed in several parts of the world. In the long term, wireless inductive charging may be an option, but it is currently considered to be too expensive to build a large-scale infrastructure.
Vattenfall has for several years been building charging infrastructure for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands. Pilot projects using wireless inductive charging are underway. When it comes to buses, Vattenfall in Sweden is participating in a research project on charging at bus terminuses, using both conductive charging with a pantograph and wireless inductive technology.
"Truck manufacturers are developing and evaluating technologies using internal combustion engines for biofuels, electrical operation with batteries and hydrogen gas as a fuel. It is too early to say which solution will have the greatest impact, but we are of course happy to be involved in developing and building the electrical motorways of the future, for example on the E4 motorway between Sweden and Germany," says Tollin.