Today’s Pickup: Siemens to electrify the autobahn

Good day,

Siemens has been awarded a contract by the German state of Hesse to build an overhead catenary line to run electric trucks along. The line will be built on a 10 kilometer stretch of the A5 federal autobahn between the Zeppelinheim/Cargo City Süd interchange at the Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange.

The system is being built as part of the joint project “Electrified, innovative heavy freight transport on autobahns,” (ELISA) of Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

“Construction of the system will demonstrate the feasibility of integrating overhead contact systems with a public highway. The system will be used for real transport networks, and prove the practicality of climate-neutral freight transport in the urban region of Frankfurt,” said Gerd Riegelhuth, head of transport of Hessen Mobil, which is managing the project.

The eHighway is twice as efficient compared to internal combustion engines, Siemens says. The core element of the system is an intelligent pantograph on the trucks combined with a hybrid drive system. Trucks equipped with the system operate locally emission-free with electricity from the overhead line and automatically switch to a hybrid engine on roads without overhead lines, much like Amtrak and commuter trains do along Northeast tracks in the U.S.

Did you know?

Approximately 50% of all truck drivers are 45 years old or older, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only 1.3% are younger than 24.


“With the eHighway, we’ve created an economically viable solution for climate-neutral freight transport by road. Our technology is an already existing and feasible alternative to trucks operating with internal combustion engines.”

–  Roland Edel, chief technology officer of Siemens’ Mobility Division, on the electrification of a section of Germany’s autobahn

In other news:

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What are the top complaints of truck drivers? surveyed drivers and came up with the ten top complaints, and they feature a few obvious ones, and a few surprises. (

Ryder to offer Chanje electric vans

Ryder has reached a deal with Chanje to purchase and lease its electric cargo vans. The first vehicles are set to be available in Los Angeles later this year with more cities added in 2018. (The Drive)

Indian company eyes U.S. market

An Indian company is eyeing the U.S. market with a vision algorithm to help trucks navigate on autopilot. (The Times of India)

Truckload carriers still not benefitting from dynamic pricing

Thirty years after deregulation, pricing models have only recently started to change with technology to more accurately reflect the costs of shipping goods, however, the truckload industry is still lagging its LTL and parcel counterparts in this regard. (Journal of Commerce)

Daimler names director of channel marketing

Daimler Trucks North America has promoted its longtime communications director, David Giroux, to the newly created position of director of channel marketing.  (Fleet Owner)

Final Thoughts

Siemens will be testing an electric highway in Germany that uses overhead wires and pantographs on trucks to provide power, much like trains. The trucks switch to diesel power when there are no overhead wires. To retrofit large portions of this country with such a system though would likely not be economically feasible, although it is something that could work in the ports possibly.  

Hammer down everyone!

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Brian Straight

Brian Straight covers general transportation news and leads the editorial team as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler.