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A dynamic charging test-track has been completed in Los Angeles, raising questions about the future of long-haul fueling solutions.
The system was built by automation giant Siemens, and is modeled on their 6-mile installation already in use on the Autobahn. Designed to integrate seamlessly with existing infrastructure, the Siemens system essentially functions like a streetcar. A system of electrified lines above the roadway connects to specially designed apparatus on the roof of the truck, actively powering the vehicle while it's connected to that system.
Siemens isn't the only game in town either: tech giant Qualcomm is working on their own version of the technology, based on their wireless "Halo" charging system that, in a 2017 French test, was able to simultaneously charge two vehicles at 20 Kilowatts.
But what's the benefit? Chiefly, the impact on an operators bottom line. Though the up-front conversion charge can be prohibitive (as with most first-generation technology), Siemens estimates that truck drivers could save an estimated $22,000 in fuel costs per 60,000 miles driven, a substantial savings. If you apply that figure to a fleet, the savings rise exponentially. Additionally, the trucking industry accounts for 18% of oil consumption in the United States (second only to passenger vehicles at 25%).
However, oil is becoming increasingly less cost-effective and more difficult to access, and companies like Volvo have made announcements to switch over completely to electric and hybrid vehicle production by 2020, further restricting the competitiveness of the oil market. This will be exacerbated by projections that the world's oil production may diminish by as much as 20% by 2050, which will make the resource even harder to utilize as an effective business expense. Forward thinking fleets should keep their eye on technologies like the ones Siemens and Qualcomm are rolling out, and jump at subsidized opportunities to jump on board.
Of course, this is all speculative. The Los Angeles test track covers a single mile of South Alameda Street, and is very much in its infancy. According to South Coast Air Quality Management District executive officer Wayne Nastri, "this project will help us evaluate the feasibility of a zero-emission cargo movement system using overhead catenary wires. This demonstration could lead to the deployment of eHighway systems that will reduce pollution and benefit public health for residents living near the ports."
For questions related to fueling, dynamic charging, or the long-haul trucking industry in general, contact us.
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