Electric roads will help cut UK road freight emissions, report says

Posted: August 21, 2020 by oldbrew in Batteries, Emissions, innovation, Travel
Tags: ,

E-truck test route [image credit: transport-online.de]

The bill for such a system would be massive and a lot of fuel duty revenue would be lost. What does it offer to anyone outside the haulage industry?
– – –
Electrification of 7,500 km of the UK’s major road network would enable most lorries to be powered by overhead charging cables, resulting in dramatically reduced carbon emissions, a new report has found.

A team from the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight (SRF) – bringing together heavy vehicle engineering expertise from the Department of Engineering and logistics expertise from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Westminster and a consortium of industry partners—has proposed that building a so-called ‘electric road system’ could be used to decarbonise 65% of UK lorry kilometers traveled by 2040, says TechXplore.

The technology is not only feasible and scalable, but the infrastructure could be built at an estimated cost of £19.3 billion, using private finance. Full details are published in the white paper titled “Decarbonising the UK’s Long-Haul Road Freight at Minimum Economic Cost.”

The report sets out the case for a nationwide rollout of the electric road system by the late 2030s, with the cost of the project (investment in electrification infrastructure such as catenary cables and substations) paid back over a 15-year period by charging hauliers for the electricity.

Powered by the national electricity grid, lorries driving on the inside lane would connect to overhead catenary cables through an automatic pantograph system—similar to those found on the top of electric trains.

The electricity would power both the lorry’s electric motor and recharge its on-board electric battery.

The battery, which would be similar in size to an electric car battery, would enable the lorry to complete its journey away from the catenary system.

Lorries would be free to leave the catenary wires to overtake, with the pantograph rapidly connecting and disconnecting automatically as needed.

Full report here.

  1. Stephen Richards says:

    Power losses in the system, 3 million electric cars all charging overnight. Factories all powering up during the early hours. That’s a lot of electricity to get from solar and wind. Road repairs. Pantograph renewal, copper supplies.

  2. cognog2 says:

    envisage a new word “Windjam” alongside “Trafficjam”, whereby long queues of lorries with flat batteries clutter up the motorway.

  3. wilpretty says:

    All lorries would need to be the same height for this to work. Anything overheight would be dangerous.

  4. jeremyp99 says:

    See GWPF papers on how decarbonisation and electification will require that, to save the planet, we destroy it.

    We’re *******.



  5. LN says:

    We had a beautiful rail network, it could be electrified and used in a similar way, but other trains could also run on the same rails. We scrapped it and left many small towns with only cars, lorries and buses to use, but those rail tracks lie abandoned. I would like to see those revived along with the waterways – cheapest transport ever.

  6. oldbrew says:

    wilpretty says: ‘All lorries would need to be the same height for this to work.’

    Pantographs don’t require that?

  7. arfurbryant says:

    Why decarbonise in the first place? Idiots.

  8. A C Osborn says:

    Big batteries, less payload = more trucks.

  9. Trolley buses were tried in many cities around the world (I think 1960s-1970s). They proved to be a traffic problem, high maintenance, costly to run and not viable.

  10. oldbrew says:

    Trolleybuses in the past had no ‘battery mode’ so were dependent on the overhead wire system all the time.

    Today it’s different…

    BVG Berlin plans implementation of hybrid trolleybuses

  11. pochas94 says:

    It’s not about decarbonizing anything. It’s about conditioning people to unquestioningly do as they’re told. Works especially well where people are stupid and drug addled.

  12. oldbrew says:

    A C Osborn says: ‘Big batteries, less payload = more trucks.’

    But no hefty fuel tanks, no bulky engine, no gearbox etc., although some electrical kit to link the battery to the overhead power system would be needed.

  13. Stephen Richards says:

    oldbrew says:
    August 21, 2020 at 2:39 pm
    A C Osborn says: ‘Big batteries, less payload = more trucks.’

    But no hefty fuel tanks, no bulky engine, no gearbox etc. The battery would recharge during overhead power use.

    [reply] sorry, I have inadvertently edited your comment instead of my own – oldbrew
    (something about battery weight)

  14. Stephen Richards says:

    I remember the trolley buses of Greenwich. I travelled to school on them. I also worked for 2 years on British Rail overhead electrification and maintenance. Junctions are a nightmare with overhead cables.

  15. oldbrew says:

    Re ‘Junctions are a nightmare with overhead cables.’

    Yes, but there would be no need for overhead cable junctions on motorways, where these cables are proposed.
    – – –
    ‘The battery, which would be similar in size to an electric car battery’ – report

    Not that huge compared to the size of the truck.

  16. ivan says:

    So we have a load of academics pushing environmental issues in the transport industry and doing it with little thought of where the goods start from or end up. It sounds as if they assume that everything will be collected a few kilometres from the motorway and delivered to places that likewise are very close to the motorway – that is pie in the sky thinking not real-world thinking.

    The other thing they appear to have forgotten is, where is all the electricity coming from to power this? If they think unreliable renewables will power this I have a nice bridge I’m sure they would like to buy with their grants. It might work today because the wind is blowing but the beginning of the week would have seen long lines of stationary trucks because the wind wasn’t blowing.

    If they are going to rely on the grid to supply the power they had better start thinking about how many new nuclear or coal generators they will need to build to have reliable power lest the UK becomes like California with rolling blackouts.

  17. jeremyp99 says:

    “So we have a load of academics pushing environmental issues in the transport industry and doing it with little thought of where the goods start from or end up”


    “So we have a load of academics pushing all sorts of issues in all sorts of industries and none of them having worked in said industries, or indeed, any sort of productive work”.

    All our institutions are infested with parasites. FUBAR.

  18. JB says:

    I don’t know how they’re decarbonising anything where the carbon trail moves from the transport to the generator. As mentioned, there are efficiency losses in an electrified system that increase the generator’s carbon production. Running fleets of delivery trucks is not as predictable for the power plant as residential/commercial loads.I can’t imagine the variability of electric trains comparing to delivery fleets either.

    Seems to me train transport of containers dropped at local depots to be disbursed by short haul vehicles is a better system. That’s been around for decades. Since buses have been running off CNG for quite some time now, LP/CNG short haulers would make better sense. Less investment, mature technology, established infrastructure.

  19. Gamecock says:

    No passing. Single file.

  20. spetzer86 says:

    I’m happy to hear the UK has found a massive supply of reliable electricity from somewhere. And hear I thought they were at a total capacity just single digit percentages over peak.

  21. Coeur de Lion says:

    But it’s pointless.

  22. oldbrew says:

    Gamecock says ‘No passing. Single file.’

    No, the report explains how the battery can be used for overtaking.

  23. Rasa says:

    This site is either Stupidity Central or a Lunatic asylum. A first year engineering student would debunk this story in about 5 nanoseconds

    [reply] but you can’t, or didn’t?

  24. Chaswarnertoo says:

    Have we reached peak stupidity yet? Where is the electricity coming from? Why is there any need to decarbonise?

  25. A C Osborn says:

    oldbrew says: August 21, 2020 at 2:39 pm & August 21, 2020 at 2:58 pm

    I am not sure if you are playing devils advocate or actually believe this bullshit.

    Instead of a large engine & gearbox with a fuel tank that gets lighter the further you go, you have 4, 6 or 8 massive electric motors and a battery that weighs the same regardless of charge.
    If you think a 44 ton truck will go more than a mile once off the charging grid on a “a car sized battery” you are as deluded as they are.

  26. oldbrew says:

    ACO – I assume they mean the battery would be the size of a car, not the power of one, otherwise I agree it wouldn’t haul a big load anywhere.

    Yes, I am playing devil’s advocate up to a point. But we also need to see how the objections stack up.

  27. Well, if the investment pays off within a 15-year period by charging the carriers for electricity. It might be worth it.

  28. pochas94 says:

    You have to charge a battery and that takes time. I can easily visualize an interstate recharge station with its own transformer setup and miles of trucks all plugged in and waiting for enough charge to get to the next recharge station. If you’re a trucker you have to keep your rig rolling or you don’t eat.

  29. oldbrew says:

    pochas – the recharge is from the overhead power lines, during transit.

  30. pochas94 says:

    Got it.

  31. tom0mason says:

    So when these electric monsters wish to join/leave the motorways and actually travel to or from the depot they better HOPE that the roads are clear.

  32. Coeur de Lion says:

    Anyone who says ‘carbon’ when they mean carbon dioxide is lying.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s