PEM Demonstrates Practicality of Electric Trucks with Pantograph

  An e-truck prototype from the "LiVePLuS" project with a pantograph Copyright: © PEM RWTH Aachen University | Patrizia Cacciotti

After several years of practical research, the chair "Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components" (PEM) of RWTH Aachen University will conclude the "LiVePLuS" project on July 31st as scheduled. It has produced various prototypes of electric trucks for heavy goods transport that combine a traction battery with an electric motor and a pantograph, depending on the intended application. On the "Siemens Mobility" test track in Groß Dölln near Berlin, the RWTH chair has now demonstrated the practical suitability of the reconfigured tractor units in a demo run.

  An e-truck prototype from the "LiVePLuS" project with a pantograph Copyright: © PEM RWTH Aachen University | Patrizia Cacciotti

"Due to the high share of road-based freight transport in Germany's CO2 emissions, truck transport also urgently needs to be decarbonized," says PEM Director Professor Achim Kampker: "This works as quickly as possible by converting existing vehicles." However, due to the high energy requirements of such trucks, which result from their high mileage as well as their total weight of up to 41 tons, there has so far been no competitive solution for their electrification. The aim of the project "Life Cycle Cost Reduction in Electric Distribution Transport through Pantograph-based Modular Systems for Trucks and Tractor Units" (LiVePLuS) was therefore to develop an economically viable electric powertrain for heavy-duty transport vehicles.

Small battery and long range thanks to overhead line

To this end, the PEM team had designed a modular construction kit with a battery and an overhead contact line pantograph, with the traction battery intended for feeder trips and the pantograph for power supply on the long haul. "With the help of our modular principle, semitrailer tractors and other heavy vehicles can be electrified depending on the application by configuring the powertrain based on the respective customer requirement," says Fabian Schmitt, head of PEM's "Zero Emission Trucks" division. "By supplying energy with the help of the overhead line, the capacity of the battery can be designed to be small while the truck maintains a long range."

Basis for future series developments

Over the course of the project, which lasted several years, the PEM team had converted two tractor-trailers and tested them on test routes with overhead line infrastructure to validate the research results. The findings are intended to prove the suitability of tractor units with pantographs and serve as a basis for future series developments.

Further information on the project is provided on the German LiVePLuS website and here.