Are Electric Cable Cars the Future of Trucking?

John Metcalfe explores a new kind of hybrid vehicle that could revolutionize trucking and cut down air contaminants in one of the most polluted regions in the country.
May 19, 2012, 7am PDT | Ryan Lue
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New technologies unveiled at the annual Electric Vehicle Symposium last week have been making headlines, and not just for consumers. German tech giant Siemens presented a vision for electrified highways (or eHighways, for short) that could ease the reliance on diesel fuel for cargo trucks.

"The key word here is pantograph," Metcalfe writes. "That's the flexible doohickey that you see on the top of a streetcar connecting it to an electric wire. The idea is to work with truck manufacturers to develop a hybrid vehicle with a pantograph that couples with a power line running above the highway."

Siemens has created a mile-long prototype of its eHighway on an abandoned airstrip in Germany, and eventually hopes to pilot the technology on the I-710 in Southern California, feeding off the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

"The electric highway would, with luck, reduce some of the foul air that currently makes the L.A. region the country's No. 1 city for ozone pollution and No. 3 in particle pollution, by the American Lung Association's ranking. Several key groups have expressed early interest in the project, including the Southern California Association of Governments, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Southern California Edison."

"When most people think of vehicle emissions, they assume cars do most of the damage," says Daryl Dulaney, infrastructure chief at Siemens, "but it's actually commercial trucks that are largely to blame."

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Published on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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