24.10.2017

INTERVIEW WITH PROF. MICHAEL SCHRÖDER

The eHighway technology, popularly known as overhead contact line, is considered a promising solution for sustainable freight transport on the road that can be implemented in the short term. Truck tractors are equipped with current collectors – similar to a classic tram – which are folded in when the truck leaves the electrified route and then has to switch over to conventional diesel operation.

After the first test routes in California (Siemens) and Sweden (Scania, among others), there is now a first field trial in Baden-Württemberg called eWayBW, in addition to other test routes in Germany. Real-life operation is to be tested in the Murg Valley, east of Rastatt – under the auspices of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Transport and with funding from the Federal Ministry for the Environment.

Inquiry: Prof. Schröder, HUETTEMANN, with its Kuppenheim location, is one of two logistics service providers involved in the test track in the Murg Valley. Isn’t this the starting signal for future-proof, sustainable logistics?

MS: Basically, as a company it is always right to seek proximity to political decision-makers and their approaches; you don’t get any stupider if you experience the direct effects – in this case of transport concepts – as a participant. In addition, one can give technical input within a modest framework.

But?

MS: Well, I am sceptical about the chances of success of the trolley truck for two reasons. Firstly, research into alternative drive technologies is in the middle of its peak phase, and a reliable trend cannot yet be established. Which drive system will become widespread? Electric, hydrogen or liquid gas? In the highly regarded Shell study on the subject, for example, natural gas propulsion with liquefied natural gas (LNG) is obviously seen as having the best chances for the future. Of course, all potential alternatives require practical experience on real test tracks …

… that’s just it: One doesn’t have to exclude the other, does it?

MS: Of course not, but I haven’t got to my second reason yet, the human factor. I am curious to see how the residents will react when they realise that along the roadway into the beautiful Black Forest, electric masts with transformers and power cables will be installed for a total of twelve kilometres. Do you want electricity pylons right on your property line?

We are talking about a federal road, aren’t we? What is the problem?

MS: Just look at the opposition to the planned power lines from north to south: Wherever possible – even in no-man’s land – cables are laid underground, which I can understand, because I know my fellow citizens. Overhead lines are just not aesthetic. If, contrary to expectations, there is no citizens’ initiative against the overhead lines in the Murg Valley, I would be very surprised.

Then let’s be surprised. But what do you as a logistics expert have to say about the eWayBW?

MS: If there is to be a test track on a federal highway, then this is the one. The regular transport volume, the manageable distance and the 24-hour service speak in favour of it. For Mr Manuguerra’s team in Kuppenheim, however, nothing will ultimately change; the Gernsbach-Kuppenheim relation with the high-frequency plant disposal including all processes will remain as it is, as long as …

Yes?

MS: … as long as the modifications to the trucks do not have any effect on the permitted payload. If the tractor were to become significantly heavier, it might not be possible to maintain the current transport volume per trip. However, these are not strategic problems, but are part of the daily operations of vehicle scheduling.

We haven’t even talked about the costs yet.

MS: That would also be poking in the fog. There are initial studies that assume diesel savings of 20 euros per 100 km travelled, but that is a calculation without taking into account the fixed costs, i.e. without the construction of the overhead line and the modifications to the vehicle.

And who pays for these?

MS: Well, since the expansion of the infrastructure is one of the state’s tasks, it is the taxpayer, who will also pay for the truck conversions on such test routes. The justification for this is the socially desired reduction of exhaust fumes and noise – not quite cheap at an estimated 2.5 million euros per kilometre of electrification.

Prof. Schröder, thank you very much for the interview.

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