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24.10.2017

Interview with Professor Schröder

The eHighway technology, also known as overhead cable, is considered to be a short-term practicable and promising solution in terms of sustainable freight transport on the streets. Similar to a classic tram, tractor units for trucks are therefore equipped with electric current collectors which are fold up at exitting the electrified route and the then necessary switching to conventional diesel mode.

After the first test routes in California (Siemens) and Sweden (Scania, among other things), there is now a first field test called eWayBW in Baden-Würtemberg in addition to other German test routes. In Murgtal, eastward Rastatt, the practical application is to be tested – under auspices of the Ministry of Transport Baden-Württemberg and with support of the Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Question: Prof. Schröder, the company HUETTEMANN is present at the test route in Murgtal with the location of Kuppenheim as one of two logistics service providers. With that, green light is given to fit future-proof and thus sustainable logistics, isn’t it?

MS: First of all, as a company, it is generally always correct to seek proximity with political decision-makers and their approaches; you do not get more stupid when you witness immediate effects – in this case of transport concepts – as an involved actor. In addition, you can give professional input on a modest scale.

But?

MS: Well, I am skeptical for two reasons with regard to the prospects of the overhead cable truck. Firstly, research on alternative work technologies is in the middle of its peak stage and a robust trend cannot yet be ascertained. So which drive will come on a large scale? Electric, hydrogen or the expected gas? In the widely acclaimed Shell study concerning the topic, the highest future prospects are obviously attested to natural gas drive with Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), for example. First and foremost, it is a matter of practical experience on real test routes for all potential alternatives …

… exactly: one thing does not need to exclude the other, does it?

MS: Of course not but I have not yet mentioned my second reason, the human factor. I am already keen to see how the residents will react when they understand that, along the road surface into the Black Forest, transmission towers with transformers and electrical cables are going to be installed on twelve kilometres, in total. However, do you want transmission towers directly at your property boundary?

After all, we are talking about a main road, aren’t we? Where is the problem?

MS: Just have a look at the resistance against the planned power lines from North to South: Wherever possible – as well in the no man’s land – you lay cables underground what I can definitely understand because I know, however, my fellow citizens. Overhead cables are just not aesthetic. If, contrary to expectations, there is no citizens’ initiative against the overhead cables in Murgtal, I will be heavily surprised.

Let’s wait and see then. So, what is your view on eWayBW as a logistician?

MS: If there has to be a test route on a main road, then it has to be this one. Factors speaking for this include the regular transport volume, the manageable distance and the 24-hour-service. For Mr. Manuguerras’s team in Kuppenheim nothing is going to change eventually, the relation between Gernsbach and Kuppenheim with the highlyfrequented disposal of waste including all processes stays as it is provided …

Yes?

MS: … provided that reconstruction work on the trucks will have no change on the permitted load. Should the tractor unit become significantly heavier, the current transport volume would possibly not be kept depending on the journey. However, these are no strategic problems but aspects which form an integral part of the operative day-to-day business of vehicle disposition.

We have not yet spoken about the costs.

MS: That would definitely be poking around in the dark. Although there are initial studies which suggest saved diesel costs amounting to 20 euros per 100 km of the distance travelled, however, this is a calculation without consideration of the fixed costs, in other words, without the overhead cable construction and the alterations to the vehicle.

And who pays these?

MS: Well, due to the expansion of infrastructure being part of the state responsibilities, it can only be the taxpayer who, by the way, is also going to pay for the truck alterations on such test routes. This is justified by the socially desirable reduction of exhaust gases and noise – not really cheap considering an estimated 2,5 million euros of electrification per kilometre.

Prof. Schröder, thank you very much for this interview. News overview