News archive

ifeu publishes analysis of barriers for introduction of overhead catenary trucks

More than ever before, flexibility, speed, reliability and cost-effectiveness are the decisive criteria when it comes to choosing modes of freight transport. National and international forecasts show that, in future, the majority of freight will be transported by road, which will continue to be dominated by trucks with diesel engines. Due to their high level of technological maturity, manufacturers’ global distribution networks, and a comprehensive service and fuel infrastructure, diesel engines are the benchmark for new drive trains, but also the main cause of greenhouse gases from the transport sector which have an impact on the climate. In order to comply with the climate targets agreed by the international community, the conventional diesel drive train must either be decarbonised or replaced by alternative truck powertrains.

The research project “Roadmap OH-Lkw” investigates the introduction of an overhead hybrid system for heavy trucks. The power is supplied directly via an overhead line. When this system is powered by renewable electricity, it has enormous potential for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are many challenges in relation to the market launch of the overhead line hybrid system, including the high infrastructure and vehicle-related costs. It is therefore crucial to identify economically viable introduction pathways, particularly in the early phase. The range of potential initial use cases is limited by various obstacles, both in relation to the unique features of the overhead catenary system architecture and to the established logistics operations and processes. There are important conclusions relating to three central areas for the introduction of the overhead catenary system for trucks:

  • Infrastructure: Early standardisation of the route evaluation and planning process could help to accelerate development of the infrastructure. Uncertainty regarding the transport demand on overhead lines should be restricted as far as possible, and responsibilities should be allocated to guarantee long-term operation of the infrastructure and predictable development.
  • Vehicle: A pooling of existing resources is essential for the introduction of the overhead catenary system for trucks due to the high investment costs. The combination of the tractor unit and semitrailer is suitable for the integration of the vehicle-side overhead catenary technology and for the flexibility of vehicle use and should therefore be the focus.
  • Users: Overcoming market barriers is a unique challenge for the introduction of the overhead catenary system for trucks. From the point of view of the fleet operators, the central aspects include a reliable and robust drive system, a high degree of flexibility in the use of vehicles, and a predictable cost structure in view of uncertainty factors such as the overhead line development and the performance of the vehicles.

These aspects are further detailed in the attached study (German only).

Analysis of barriers (pdf, 1MB)

The research project Roadmap OH-Lkw