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A truck under a catenary on the A5 between Frankfurt and Darmstadt

Photo: Alex Kraus / Bloomberg / Getty Images

How can truck traffic reduce its carbon dioxide emissions?

Possibly by equipping more motorways with overhead lines in the future.

Researchers are drawing positive initial conclusions in the context of a pilot test on the route between Lübeck and Reinfeld.

When driving electrically, CO₂ emissions can be reduced by around half with today's electricity mix, said Falk Richter from the Technical University of Dresden on Thursday when presenting the results in Kiel.

With an increasing proportion of green electricity in the energy mix, emissions could be further reduced.

But the potential for CO₂ reduction is not only determined by the electricity mix, but also by the vehicle models.

According to the Kiel University of Applied Sciences, optimization of the vehicles means they can obtain energy more efficiently from the overhead lines.

“We find that the vehicles now drive reliably overall and, with the increased energy consumption from the overhead line, they could also bridge larger gaps in the overhead line,” explained Klaus Lebert from the Kiel University of Applied Sciences.

According to the university of applied sciences, with only 20 percent overhead lines, the trucks on their routes are already up to 50 percent electric.

For this purpose, the energy obtained from the overhead line is stored in a battery.

The hybrid vehicles then use gasoline for the remaining 50 percent of the route.

Doubts about the economic viability of e-highways

The E-Highway Schleswig-Holstein field test is one of three pilot projects in Germany in which the use of overhead line trucks in real operation is being researched.

The field trial will run until the end of 2024 and is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection.

However, criticism of the pilot test came from the Schleswig-Holstein Taxpayers' Association.

He considered the experiment a failure and called for an end to the field test in Schleswig-Holstein.

The technology has proven to be technically feasible, but there are considerable doubts about its economic viability, said the managing director of the Schleswig-Holstein Taxpayers Association, Rainer Kersten.

"In view of the Europe-wide transport flows, large parts of the European motorway network would otherwise have to be provided with overhead lines," he said.

However, this is too expensive and not foreseeable.