Saturday, March 07, 2009

Transport of goods in sustainable mobility

Illustration - Transit Connect EV Van presented by Ford at the Chicago Auto Show in February 2009. It will be marketed in 2010 (photo: Ford)

Recently, Ford announced that its first electric vehicle will be the Transit Connect EV van, promised for 2010. (photo above). They team up for this new product with the English company Smith Electric Vehicles already well established and which offers a range of electric trucks, as can be seen on their web site.

In fact, the urban transport of goods is probably the area where vehicles will be electrified first. Indeed, these vehicles do not need to run faster than 90 km/h (56 mph) or travel distances over 160 km (100 miles) per day. In addition, the vehicles return to the company every evening, where you can easily recharge their battery. The TNT company, the largest express delivery company in England, has understood this issue since it bought in 2007 and 2008, 150 Newton electric trucks with a payload of 7.5 metric tonnes (8,3 short tons), from the company Smith Electric Vehicles (illustration below).

Illustration - One of 150 Newton electric trucks from Smith bought in 2007 and 2008 by the express delivery company TNT in England. (Photo: TNT)

The transportation of goods by 18 wheelers is more difficult to electrify due to their high daily mileage, often up to 800 km (500 miles) per day, while these semi trailers consume much more energy than a light vehicle. In my book «Rouler sans pétrole» (Driving Without Oil), I show that advanced tractor-trailers of the future could consume 3 times less fuel than today when running on fuel. To achieve this, we should rely on a good and strong hybridization, a heat engine 25% more efficient, better aerodynamics (see figure below), electric wheel motors and the reduction of speed on motorways to 95 km/h (60 mph).

Illustration - Trucks designed by Luigi Colani (Source: Wikimedia Commons, author: Wikipedia is, August 2005)

Afterwards, having reduced energy consumption by a factor of 3, semi trailers could be fitted with 2 to 3 metric tonnes (4,400 lbs to 3,600 lbs) of high performance Li-ion battery, which would allow them to travel about 300 km (187 miles) on electricity. With lithium titanate batteries, it would be possible to fill them up in less than 20 minutes with a one megawatt (1 MW) charger. For reference, the electricity is transferred to a high-speed train like the TGV in France with a power of 9 MW.

Moreover, in a context of scarce energy, it is desirable that people consume more locally, thereby reducing the number of trucks on the roads. Also, the high cost of oil in 2008 led to cooperation between transport companies, which are now increasingly sharing trucks when they are not full, which, again, reduces the number of lorries on the roads. Finally, we can also divert a portion of semi-trailers through the trains. That is the principle of piggybacking, more and more popular in Europe, where trains run largely on electricity.

Illustration - Intermodal rail station for freigh transit between Luxembourg and Perpignan, managed by the French company Lorry-Rail (Source: Lorry-Rail)

In closing, we should not forget that we can also transport goods through the high-speed monorail that I presented in my post of March 3, 2009.

1 comment:

  1. My friend is going to buy a Xebra electric truck, but she doesn't have a license. The truck falls under the category of "three-wheeled motorcycle", and she thinks you can drive a motorcycle with a permit. Is this true?

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