The truck provider, Rhenus Trucking, is putting its faith in electric trucks in conjunction with the terminal operator, Contargo: the two companies are therefore important pioneers as far as alternative drive systems and sustainable logistics are concerned. Rhenus Trucking purchased six fully electric 44-tonne trucks in the spring of 2019 and has been using them to transport containers at the Contargo terminals at the ports of Duisburg and Neuss since that time. That was a bold decision. No other company had ever organised this kind of electric truck fleet in Germany. And implementing the project was anything but simple. After all, there are only a few manufacturers of heavy goods vehicles powered by batteries.
However, comparable electric trucks cost about three times more than similar diesel trucks. Depending on their design, they have a range of between 100 and 250 kilometres – then the battery needs to be recharged. In order to have efficient rapid charging facilities, it is also important to create the necessary charging infrastructure, as any vehicle schedules have to take into account possible interim charging times too.
In order to test different models, Rhenus Trucking has purchased vehicles from three manufacturers: two trucks from the Dutch company, DAF, two from the Swiss provider, Futuricum, and two from the Swiss firm, E-Force. All of them are operating effectively. Even if conventional electricity was used to charge the batteries, the overall CO2 emissions could already be reduced by about 40 percent, thanks to the electric trucks. Contargo is making use of green electricity at all its business sites; the CO2 emissions are therefore being cut by as much as 90 percent (WtW). The results are extremely important. Heavy goods vehicles are responsible for creating about one quarter of all CO2 emissions in road traffic.
Vehicles: six 44-tonne trucks
Manufacturers: DAF, E-Force, Futuricum
Operating range: between 100 and 250 kilometres
CO2 savings per annum: more than 400 tonnes
It is therefore no accident either that recognition has come from within the sector: Rhenus, Contargo and DAF received the “Green Logistic Innovation 2019” Prize from the trade magazines, VerkehrsRundschau und TRUCKER, because they are enabling low-emission transport operations.
One thing was obvious in the project being pursued by Rhenus Trucking and Contargo. “Electric trucks may not yet be suitable for long-distance traffic. However, they’re a sensible alternative for local services,” says Sascha Hähnke. On average, the electric trucks operate within a radius of 40 kilometres around the Contargo terminals. This means that the battery-operated trucks complete two or three trips every day and each one on average covers a distance of 240 kilometres. Kristin Kahl summarises matters as follows, “Battery-powered electric trucks fit into our logistics concept in an ideal manner within our combined traffic services.”
Even if initial success stories have been recorded, it is not yet clear what the future of electric vehicles will be for transport services, how quickly they will conquer the market, go into series production and be able to compete with current diesel trucks in terms of prices. Some experts, like Auke Hoestra, are optimistic. The Dutch transport expert assumes that electric trucks will become the new norm. “I think that we’ll have 40-tonne, battery-operated articulated trucks with a range of 800 kilometres in five years from now and they’ll be able to transport greater loads than current trucks,” said Hoestra recently to the “Klimareporter” online magazine.
However, a longer battery life and intelligent rapid charging points, which are linked to the scheduling department, could continue to increase their attractiveness. Hähnke does not, however, believe that all trucks will be electrically-powered in future. Other technologies like hydrogen or natural gas are interesting for him too at the moment. This is the reason why Rhenus Trucking is not only operating six articulated electric vehicles for Contargo, but is also involved in using an overhead cable hybrid truck in service on the “Elisa” project E-Highway A5” test route for Contargo too. Rhenus Trucking is also participating in another electric truck project with Remondis involving a Mercedes E-Actros in Cologne.
Whatever happens, transporting goods must definitely become more eco-friendly. And the vehicle fleets of logistics specialists will have to develop accordingly and be geared towards innovations that are ready for introduction in the market place.
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