Sweden aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. In order to reduce the emissions from road transport, which currently account for 30 per cent of the country’s total, engineers are developing electric roads that bear a resemblance to life-size Scalextric.
eRoadArlanda is the first electrified road to allow both commercial and passenger traffic to be recharged while driving. The system allows existing public roads to be electrified and help to create a future of fossil-free road transport.
Over one mile of electric rail has been installed along public road 893, between the Arlanda Cargo Terminal and the Rosersberg logistics area outside Stockholm. The electrified road works by transferring energy to the vehicle from a rail in the road through a movable arm. The arm detects the location of the rail in the road and as long as the vehicle is above the rail, the contact will be in a lowered position.
The idea is that batteries would power electric cars during their local journeys, but on long distance trips the cars would receive continual power via the tracks built into the road surface. Safety features include earthing at the surface and a feature that powers up short sections at a time, as vehicles pass over them.
“One of the most important issues of our time is the question of how to make fossil-free road transportation a reality. We now have a solution that will make this possible, which is amazing. Sweden is at the cutting edge of this technology, which we now hope to introduce in other areas of the country and the world,” says Hans Säll, Chairman of the eRoadArlanda consortium.
One day we may look back and wonder how 40-ton lorries were ever allowed to rumble through our villages and city streets. Though they make up only 3% of vehicles, lorries account for one quarter of Europe’s road transport emissions – a figure that’s expected to grow as traffic increases further. On top of that, heavy goods vehicles are involved in a disproportionate number of fatal crashes.
For its part, the engineering firm Siemens is helping to address one of these persistent threats. The company has developed what looks like an HGV tram hybrid. Despite being more visually obtrusive than the track system being developed in Sweden, Siemens claims its eHighway is twice as efficient as internal combustion engines. Rather than rely on a large diesel engine that can return as few as four miles per gallon, this hybrid approach delivers electricity via overhead power cables. The result is that energy consumption is halved and local air pollution lessened.
The company has recently has been commissioned by the German state of Hesse to build an overhead contact line for electrified freight transport on a 10-kilometre stretch of motorway. The line will supply electricity for powering its electric hybrid trucks. The system will be installed on the A5 federal autobahn between Frankfurt Airport and the Darmstadt/Weiterstadt interchange.
A reduction in the emissions caused by HGVs, the fuel consumption of which can fall to low single figures, is welcome, but what of the other risks posed by heavy lorries? Year after year, heavy good vehicles are over represented in fatal collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians. In 2013, HGVs were involved in nine out of the fourteen incidents in London that resulted in the death of a cyclist. Some have called for outright bans on HGVs from city streets during working hours. At the very least, we need road rules and attitudes that make cycling in our cities something for everyone – rather than only the brave.
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