Our Trucks Won’t Need No Batteries! Electric Trucks Look To Overhead Wires For Power

As the world grapples with the spectre of the so-called “hockey stick” graph of climate change, there have been a variety of solutions proposed to the problem of carbon emissions from sectors such as transport which have become inseparable from the maintenance of 21st century life. Sometimes these are blue-sky ideas that may just be a little bit barmy, while other times they make you stop and think: “That could just work!”.

Such an idea is that of replacing the diesel engines in trucks with electric motors powered not by batteries but from overhead cables. An electric tractor unit would carry a relatively small battery for last-mile transit, but derive its highway power by extending a pantograph from its roof to a high-voltage cable above the road. It’s extremely seductive to the extent that there have even been trials of the system in more than one country, but does it stack up to a bit of analysis?

Time’s Up For Those Big Rigs

Siemens and Scania are justifiably proud of their electrified stretch of autobahn and electric trucks in Germany.
Siemens and Scania are justifiably proud of their electrified stretch of autobahn and electric trucks in Germany.

One thing that should be obvious to all is that moving our long-distance freight around by means of an individual fossil-fuel-powered  diesel engine for every 38 tonne or so freight container may be convenient, but it is hardly either fuel-efficient or environmentally friendly The most efficient diesel engines on the road are said to have a 43% efficiency, and when hauling an single load they take none of the economies of scale afforded to the diesel engines that haul for example a freight train. Similarly they spread any pollution they emit across  the entirety of their route, and yet again fail to benefit from the economies of scale present in for example a power station exhaust scrubber. However much I have a weakness for the sight of a big rig at full stretch, even I have to admit that its day has passed.

The battery technology being pursued for passenger cars is a tempting alternative, as we’ve seen with Tesla Semi. But for all its technology that vehicle still walks the knife-edge between the gain in cost-effectiveness versus the cost of hauling around enough batteries to transport that quantity of freight. Against that the overhead wire truck seems to offer the best of both worlds, the lightness and easy refueling of a diesel versus the lack of emissions from an electric. In the idealised world of a brochure it runs on renewable wind, sun, and water power, so all our problems are solved, right? But does it really stack up?

The trouble with evaluating claims about overhead wire electric trucks is that there is little comparable from which to draw parallels. Long-distance electric trains have been around for over a century, but though they make infinitely more sense for very long distance transport they are not analagous enough to a myriad of individual routes for a direct comparison. Likewise electric urban transport in the form of trams and trolley buses are old enough to have been invented, abandoned, and rediscovered, but their use cases of city transport over set routes doesn’t match that of a free-ranging truck. Perhaps it’s better to look at the costs involved both in providing the distribution infrastructure and the extra generating capacity.

Out Comes The Hackaday Back of An Envelope

You'll need more than 1.21 Jiggawatts to power all the trucks in the UK! MsSaraKelly (CC BY 2.0)
You’ll need more than 1.21 Jiggawatts to power all the trucks in the UK! MsSaraKelly (CC BY 2.0)

Just how much energy does a truck user per mile anyway, and what effect would all the trucks going electric have on the grid? Time for a back-of-envelope calculation. This 2017 paper from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (PDF) puts some figures on the table, deriving a 1.89 kWh per mile figure for a battery electric truck versus as 2.02 kWh figure for its diesel equivalent. This disparity is due to predicted recovery of energy through regenerative braking.

Since the Guardian piece linked at the top of the article applies to the UK, a quick look at the British government’s road freight statistics reveals 152 billion tonne kilometres of freight were moved by road over 18.7 billion kilometres traveled in 2018, with an average haul length of 108km or 67.1 miles. This gives us 173,148,148 of those 67.1 mile journeys, and taking in the Oak Ridge energy figures, 23,468,846,276 kWh of diesel or 21,958,474,981 kWh of electric energy consumption. That’s a yearly figure, so dividing by 365 and taking a dubious assumption that those journeys are spread over 12 hours of daytime, we arrive at 5,013,350.45 kW of extra generating capacity. 5.013 GW may be enough to get you back to the future four times, but it’s not inconsequential in generating capacity terms.

To give an idea of the cost, and taking the rosy view that all this capacity will be renewable wind power, a 3.5 MW wind turbine costs £3.13 million to install. To generate 5.013 GW we would need 1433 of them for which we probably have space offshore, so we’d have to find an extra £4,485,290,000 ($5,895,667,014.05). £4.5 billion is a lot of money but it’s not out of sight for a government that’s spending over £100 billion on a high-speed railway at the moment, even if they may soon have some economic uncertainty to contend with.

How about the cost of putting up those electric cables? For that we don’t have any comparisons as there are no large road networks that have been converted to overhead wires. But we do have a parallel in the railway system, as the ongoing electrification of Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s Great Western Railway from London to South Wales. It’s mired in controversy and has moved significantly from its original cost estimate and scope, but in 2017 the 129 miles from London to Cardiff were estimated to cost £2.8 billion, or somewhere over £21.7 million per mile. The likely size of the UK road network to be converted is quoted as 4,300 miles, so that gives us a final bill of £93.31 billion, or about $122.506 billion. Add to that our by now relatively paltry-sounding £4.5bn for those wind turbines, and we reach a final figure of £97.81 billion (about $128.67 billion).

So our back-of-the-envelope calculation for a countrywide network comes in at a shade under £100 bn, definitely in the same ballpark as the high-speed rail project that only serves London and Birmingham, about 125 miles apart. I’m sure that there will be other costs and that Hackaday readers will pick up on me should I have made any calculation errors, but I must admit to being pleasantly surprised at how relatively affordable that is for a country. Cynical long-time watchers will tell you that everything the UK government touches comes in at twice the price, but even at £200bn it’s not out of sight for the benefit it might deliver.

It May Be Affordable, But Does It Scale?

MK to Vladivostok , by electric train.
MK to Vladivostok on Google Maps, by electric train(s). Tell me again that electric traction is impractical over long distances.

Doubters will of course point to the size and density of the United Kingdom versus the wide open spaces of for example the American mid-west as evidence for why it could not possibly work over distances greater than those in a small country. To them I would point to the experience in the railway system. For many decades now I have been able to take an electric train (with a few changes) for thousands of miles from the Atlantic coast of the UK through the Channel Tunnel across Europe and into Russia, and since 2002 from Moscow further via the Trans-Siberian Railway to China and as far as Vladivostok. It’s not really an easy journey at over a week, but I can take an electric train journey and then a ferry crossing from near my hackerspace in Milton Keynes to arrive in Japan, and that’s not an inconsequential distance. There is nothing about the technology which makes it impossible or impractical over a large distance, and since it has been around for a long time there’s nothing unproven about doing so.

In investigating the viability of electrified road transport we’ve found to our surprise that it could indeed be viable, and to demonstrate this we’ve leaned heavily upon the analogous experience in the rail industry. But in doing so we’ve inadvertently demonstrated something else, that railways can more successfully be electrified over very long distances. Perhaps the real story here is that what might work best to decarbonise freight transport using electricity would be to electrify the rail lines for freight as the branches of a transcontinental tree, and to treat the regional road networks as its electrified fine roots and leaves rather than try to electrify every road. After all, an electric locomotive can move a hundred loads at once.

Header image: Scania.

208 thoughts on “Our Trucks Won’t Need No Batteries! Electric Trucks Look To Overhead Wires For Power

    1. Off Topic.
      Consider what it would cost for the U.S. to switch to metric just in regard to land.
      Every square mile has been mapped out (surveyed).
      Property is bought/sold based on those measurements.
      Roads, fences, State Borders, have been built on those “section lines” (a Section is 1 sq. mile).
      Each Section is divided into 640 acres, now convert those to hectares.
      Every map (city, county, state, federal) would have to be changed to reflect those changes.
      Every highway sign that displays miles (including mileposts and billboards) would have to be changed.
      $$$
      (Oh yeah, contour lines on maps would also have to converted from feet to metres.)

      1. Yes, it takes an effort. Just like wearing a mask is inconvenient. Some things are for the overall, and/or future good. Only new signs would have to be changed. As for the surveying, you realize, that just because you change units, the size is still the same. No need to re-measure. I’m pretty sure there is some kind of crazy conversion between feet and meters… Also, cost would be small as compared to having both metric and imperial sets of every tool. What about all the confusion and scrap produced, having two systems. Also, also, I wonder how many sales to other countries are lost, because they don’t want to fk with products from the US, because they might have some fasteners only easily available in the US … I’ll gladly go on on request …

        1. “also, I wonder how many sales to other countries are lost, because they don’t want to fk with products from the US,”

          That may have been true in the 1960s or 1970s, but business is business, and many (most?) U..S. companies are tooled in metric, because they want the foreign customers.
          And importing Japanese mills and lathes probably made it easier.

          1. I work in large equipment manufacturing (Japanese owned). If, suddenly, tomorrow we could not buy .25 inch plate, we would be a giant issue. We can not, by law in some instances, substitute 6mm for .25 inch. If you want to start calling it 6.4mm plate, fine, but I suspect most people’s idea to “go metric” would not include just relabeling the products with different units. Can you guarantee switching is going to help every company? How many manufacturing jobs are you willing to sacrifice to make that happen? If it doesn’t benefit a particular industry to change, why is it important that they be forced to do so?

          2. Glad we agree. All US businesses dealing with the real world use metric. Science, tech, bio, medical, … even the US military.

            Even packaging here already has measurements in both systems already.

            The US government found SI to be good and needed, hence Metric Conversion Act of 1975.

            To my point, why then have imperial tooling and measurement at all? Unless there is a good reason not to, just let go already.

          3. Re: JustWandering comments

            ” If, suddenly, tomorrow we could not buy .25 inch plate, … ”
            In government and industry nothing is suddenly … Nobody would take your 1/4in plate.

            “We can not, by law in some instances, substitute 6mm for .25 inch.”
            Right.
            But, the reason they specify 1/4in. plate, is because that was the common size available at product design time. What if 6mm were the new “standard”? Depending on application, I bet in most cases, you would get the same prints back from the customer with .25″ crossed out and 6mm specified.

            ” Can you guarantee switching is going to help every company? How many manufacturing jobs are you willing to sacrifice to make that happen?”
            No, I can’t. It’s not supposed to help every company. Change usually doesn’t. Why would jobs be sacrificed? I can’t imagine you or anyone would lose their job because they had to make something out of 6 or 7mm material instead of .25in. On the other hand, can you guarantee me, that keeping a system that has been superseded isn’t hurting the US and costing jobs?

            ” If it doesn’t benefit a particular industry to change, why is it important that they be forced to do so?”
            Many reasons. Not seeming like a backwater country that has trouble converting by tens units, is certainly one of them. To many Americans, keeping Imperial is a matter of stupid pride. To me it’s shameful.

            As with other things going on, a little inconvenience and sacrifice sooner, would go a long way toward improving things sooner.

          4. South Africa switched to metric in 1975 (I think). In the property business, we still deal with many survey diagrams in the units used before that (including standard or English feet, depending on which province), square roods (old Dutch units), Morgen, as well as acres. We have the conversion factors for property legal matters, but at least everything since 1975 is easy!

            It’s like hanging on to the underside of an aircraft while it’s taking off (imagine James Bond!) The best time to let go and deal with your own rough landing is always as early as possible. He who hesitates…

            And the price keeps going up: https://www.simscale.com/blog/2017/12/nasa-mars-climate-orbiter-metric/

          5. >Many reasons. Not seeming like a backwater country

            So far that appears to be the only reason, and it’s an irrational reason: to change your system of measurements because it’s fashionable?

            Don’t fix what ain’t broken.

          6. in response to “Dude”
            “So far that appears to be the only reason, and it’s an irrational reason: to change your system of measurements because it’s fashionable?
            Don’t fix what ain’t broken.”

            Irrational? Updating/upgrading isn’t irrational … What’s you infatuation with the old system? Holding a country back only because of one’s personal comfort is ignorant and irrational.

            Fashionable? Countries have adopted it and never looked back. How many have switched the other way? Only three out of two hundred+ countries are dragging their ass.

            Still hoping somebody could give me one real world example of Imperial’s superiority…

          7. Umm…No says: “To my point, why then have imperial tooling and measurement at all? Unless there is a good reason not to, just let go already.”

            Because the change would cost money. Quite a lot of money actually. And for most things, provide no difference in performance. So why spend money on something you don’t have to that won’t provide any benefit? Cost-Benefit analysis is a thing.

          8. “Can you guarantee switching is going to help every company?”Actually I can, exepirience of Australia, South Africa and others that switched is they loose less material in offcuts, especiallly in cases where mesurement and counting is done by hand like building industry, carpentry and so on, in big enginering companies it mnight not help much as its all counted by computers but everytime average Joe takes mesuring tape and starts counting all those 2/3rd inch 7/5ths and so on he doeasn’t botther counting if he could reuse offcuts in metrics its easy enough to do it.

        2. It’s .3048 meters to a foot, and the fact that you don’t know something that basic about unit conversion and think it’s “some kind of crazy conversion” shows you don’t have any idea what you’re proposing.

          Also, from farther down,
          > Still hoping somebody could give me one real world example of Imperial’s superiority…

          US Customary units (*not* “imperial”) are better in many circumstances. The foot being 12 inches long means it can be divided evenly in more ways than any metric unit. The Fahrenheit scale gives a finer resolution by which to specify temperature than the Celsius scale, which is important in contexts where you’re limited to a fixed number of decimal places (think weather forecasting). Metric units have no unit analogous to a foot, which makes it awkward to measure things on the scale of people; you either have to use multiple decimal places with meters or hundreds of centimeters to express a length that is expressed more succinctly in feet and inches. Metric units also have no analogous unit to a gallon.

          On top of all of those examples, metric units are pretty arbitrary themselves, despite what their proponents claim. Consider:
          The base unit of mass is the *kilo*gram, even though kilo is supposed to mean “1000x the base unit.”
          Before the current MKS system, the CGS system was used where the centimeter was the base unit of length, even though centi is supposed to mean “1/1000th of the base unit.”
          Metric users “weigh” things in grams and kilograms, even though metric units of weight are actually newtons.

          1. To anon:
            ” … the fact that you don’t know something that basic about unit conversion and think it’s “some kind of crazy conversion” shows …”

            Maybe it shows you have no sense of sarcasm. My job requires me to convert lengths daily, Thank you very much.

            The rest of you arguments are all pick and choose. If twelve is your preferred number, fine. Then at least make it 12 foot in a yard, twelve yard in a mile, …
            Dividing a foot in sixth, wow 2 inches! How about 1/6 of a gallon? Check out the factors of a ton. One sixth is? A third? Ummph …

            Your “easily divided” argument makes no sense anyway. If you have stock that is an exact multiple of twelve, some benefit. In the real world, what if your board is 8ft. 1 in.? How about 8ft. 1-1/16″? A cut-off from a previous job is 38″. The factors of 38 are pretty much the same I think in either system (sarcasm, spelled out this time). What’s the benefit of 12 in / ft. now?
            Lets divide by 3. Oops. 12 inches and what?
            How about by 5. Oops. Umm …
            By 6. Ouch!
            … It only gets worse.
            And that’s working with an even number. How about cutting up a piece 37″ long?

            If 12 is so great, why isn’t it used more often in imperial? Because 16 is great, too. And, 128, and 2200, and 5280, 43560, 3, … You really love a lot of numbers!

            Re: Fahrenheit
            Yes, the Fahrenheit is a somewhat finer scale. So is the centimeter vs. inch. So is km vs mile. The world does fine with Celsius. Look at their weather forecasts. No decimals! Pointless argument.

            Re: “… metric units are pretty arbitrary themselves, despite … ” kilo”-gram … ”

            Yes, rules, laws, and standards have exceptions. Calling an actual SYSTEM arbitrary because of very few exceptions, is pretty low. How many other exceptions did you find? At least there is “A SYSTEM” to examine. Metric is a solid system, not just a lookup table of ad-hoc numbers.

            Re: “Metric users “weigh” things in grams and …”

            That’s the funniest comment to date. The fact is, the US uses the metric system when dealing with matters where mass/weight needs to be separated. You’re pointing fingers, while using pound for mass and weight interchangeably?!
            — Oh, man, you made my day!

          1. Re: Dude “The other countries just deal with it.”

            That is a great strategy for losing customers. They deal with it under duress, then find something more to their liking. Usually hold a grudge too, so good luck selling to them when you’ve corrected your strategy.

          2. Yet smartphone screens in Europe still sell by the inch, not by the centimeter.

            The measurement system used is irrelevant. It only matters in manufacturing the goods, which happens in the US where everyone uses the same system. For the sales and the end consumers, it makes no difference which tape measure was used to cut the cloth or what size screw is holding the thing together.

          3. Or the same thing in reverse: when you buy an European car in the US, they don’t make special provisions to use UTS instead of Metric nuts and bolts. It comes in metric, and when you take your car to a garage to be serviced, the garage has metric socket wrenches to deal with it, and they buy the spare parts from the same factories that make the cars so they too come in metric size. You’re not going to be fitting a Ford engine head into a Mercedes anyways.

            So where’s the problem?

          4. Also, for things where exact size matters, the irony is that the metric equivalents are deliberately chosen with tolerances that include the US size. For example the 3.5 mm audio plug, plumbing parts, plywood sheet sizes, construction timber sizes…

            In Europe it’s very common to find “two by four” planks, and it is used and sold as such because the whole construction industry has been using this nominal size since time immemorial. They could call it 10×5 cm but they simply don’t, because it makes no difference.

            Many countries still retain their own archaic measurements, such as the Scandinavian mile, which is 6.2 English miles.

          5. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make. The fact there are examples where a legacy system still has some remnants left over, is enough reason to keep it around?

            I assure you there are zero Imperial measurements on any production drawings for said cell phone. Even, if if designed or manufactured in the US (none are). Remove said imperial screen, and I bet all traces and hole spacing, … are based on metric measurements.

            I totally agree with your tape measure and car comments. What is the problem, and what is the difference? That is exactly the point.

            The truth is, the influence if the metric system in the US will continue to increase. If your kids or grand kids get into any technical field, they will be dropped into a metric world. Seems to me, having them have the feel early on, would help them.

            I think your perception of “changing over” is that you’ll no longer have 2x4s or quarter-pounders, of 1″ BI pipe. As with your UK pint of beer example, some “comfort and trade measurements” will carry on for a long time. No problem. What it should mean, is that any future design of the saw that cut your 2×4 be metric. Why? Because there is no advantage in not doing so. In the long run, no need for every manufacturer, repair facility, garage, individual, … to carry fasteners and tooling for two similar systems.

            Can you believe that some countries can adopt a new language as a matter of progress, because they understand the long term advantages?

            Humans generally overestimate how much change will impact them. Chances are your measuring tape already has mm on it. Your groceries are marked with grams. Would it ruin your day to hear the weather forecast is for 20degC in stead of 68degF? It’s a new millennium. Become part of it.

          6. > is enough reason to keep it around?

            Yes. If there is no reason to change it, then there’s no reason to change it just for the sake of changing it.

            If people want to call it a 2×4″ then who are you to go around telling them not to? Same thing in the US: if people want to keep using pounds and inches and feet and miles, why do they have to change? If as you say, all the engineering is already done in metric, and this is all transparent to the people, then what exactly needs to change? Absolutely nothing. It works – that’s good enough.

            Europeans still measure their televisions in inches, and Americans buy soda in two liter bottles – nobody really cares what the underlying system is except people who want to do things differently for the sake of being different. That’s all there is to it: you fancy yourself better for advocating a different system.

          7. >Humans generally overestimate how much change will impact them.

            What if I told you you have to circle around a particular street lamp on your way to work every day from now-on? That’s not much of an impact, it’s just four, maybe five more feet on your travel – a little spin around, that’s all.

            Would you do it? For absolutely no reason other than knowing this is now a fashionable, progressive thing to do?

          8. >Can you believe that some countries can adopt a new language as a matter of progress, because they understand the long term advantages?

            Generally speaking, all those have been cases of cultural imperialism. It’s always a great tragedy when an original language and culture is lost, because it loses with it a whole system and a way of thinking. It’s not progress.

          9. RE: Dude “What if I told you you have to circle around a particular street lamp on your way to work ….”

            Naw, that’s you going around 256/64th of a turn around a pole. I’ve seen other’s pass by without doing so. Their way is easier. I’m with them.

            Metric is about as fashionable as electricity. It may seem a little scary. Candlelight may give you a warm and cozy feeling, but some day, you’ll be hooked up too. Not many ever go back. Did you have this much trouble adopting to having interchangeable parts and assembly lines, too?

            Seeing this, I guess the world will be needing two sets of tools and fasteners, covering two “standards” for way too long yet. Because, you know, why not?

            Thank’s Man!

            I’ll be thinking of you, when they sing the National Anthem in Spanish some day …

          10. > Their way is easier.

            Not if you’re not used to it. Why don’t you go complain about UK still driving on the left side?

            Even metric was marginally better, changing a third of a billion people over to it would be more trouble than its worth.

          11. To mostly “John” and “Dude” ‘s Comments:

            As suspected, no good reason was made to carry on with Imperial measurements. All I hear is, “It was good enough for the Founding Fathers”, and that’s good enough for me”.

            I prefer to not have my country ridiculed over something that is so easily implemented. Not unless there is a good reason not to change. “Because that’s what I’m used to”, is selfish and sad.

            I can’t help thinking about this Sam Harris quote:

            “Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, “Well, that’s not how I choose to think about water.”? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn’t share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?”

        1. Re. Dude “… Why don’t you go complain about UK still driving on the left side? …”

          Because I live in the US. If all cars here had to have two steering wheels because of the UK, I’d be pretty pissed. When your bone-headedness affects others, that’s when I care.

          News Flash: You know, we’ve upgrade the monetary system, too. No more 12 pence per Shilling. Farthing and Half Crown. All dead.

          Oops: Exception! Here’s a QUARTER for your “two cents” …
          An EXCEPTION! UNACCEPTABLE! Bad system. Bad, bad system.
          And yet, EVERBODY uses decimal, and powers of TEN. Even the US!

          Decimals: We’re taking over !!! You Will Conform !!!

          Woho ho Hahaaa.. haa ..!

      2. Australia did it in 1975 or thereabouts. Not as big a deal as you might think. But I don’t think the USA is capable of doing it, given the anti-change attitude of a large slab of its population who would invoke God, call it a communist plot – or a European plot – to overthrow their freedom, take away their guns, or control their minds. It would be just way too hard.

        1. “given the anti-change attitude of a large slab of its population who would invoke God, call it a communist plot – or a European plot – to overthrow their freedom, take away their guns, or control their minds”

          Bigoted much?

          1. As I said, even the US military is Metric. Or, is that some kind of conspiracy too. Sometimes other countries do things better, admit it, live with it. Trying to argue the opposite, just makes you look like a fool … FYI, if Germany were running the US, we would be losing under 50 US citizens a day, not over 1000.

      3. Imperial measurements are meant for practicality of use in the real world on an individual basis. I have multiple parts of my body that are equal to a standard imperial measurement. It’s mean to be relatable to the human scale, or give you the ability to accurately (ish) measure almost anything without any type of measuring tools and very little to no math. People that just work on the math all day, seem to forget that. Might be convenient for sitting at a desk, but when it comes to measuring or building one, it’s much easier to do without tools in any given imperial measurement. Metric is arbitrary.

        1. This argument is silly. How many items have you produced that you didn’t measure? Im an American and work with imperial measurements on the projects I’ve had. and I have used a tape measure to make sure I got it right. Not my arm, or a finger or whatever. I hear all the”rule of thirds” type arguments and fractions are more logical arguments and who cares??? Let’s all get on the same system. No more conversions. The math is simpler with metric anyway… (and that doesn’t mean less accurate.)

          1. Sorry mate. At 65 years old I can assure you that metric is crap when it comes to real world use. There is no intuitive ball park feeling of things being right with metric, it is a completely arbitrary system with no easy references. I use both all the time and am totally at ease with converting between them and in some instances I will convert to metric and sometimes I do the opposite.

            Overall Imperial is easier to estimate and on an awful lot of things that I do an estimate is all I need.

            Calculations are no easier. As an example consider Imperial drill bit sizes, they usually use a binary system with each drill bit being half of the next size up. Just because it says 1/16 on the drill bit ( half of 1/8) does not mean it is not easy to work with.

          2. John claims imperial measurements are easier to “intuitively guess at” than metric.

            Well, that’s a very subjective claim. He’s been guessing at distances in feet and inches for 60+years of course that comes easy to him. For someone who has been estimating in meters and centimeters for 60 years, imperial would be counter intuitive.

            Besides, I think 2meters being an average man height makes guessing and calculating things easier for the neutral than 6ft.

            Fractions being “easier to do math with” is also a poor argument these days. Any complex math is being done with calculators for the last several score years. Fractions are HARDER to work with than decimals on calculators.

            The argument for imperial really just breaks down to “it’s what I’m used to”.

          3. Nope. I was schooled in metric from about 8 years old. That is when it was introduced into the UK. From 1968 on decimal currency started to take over from £SD and for the most part Imperial slowly disappeared from education completely.

          4. >How many items have you produced that you didn’t measure?

            Define “measure”.

            I do a bit of woodworking, and when I make a box or something, I don’t measure whether it’s 124 millimeters long, because that’s irrelevant. All I need is any two opposing sides to be the same length.

            Trying to do that by first measuring one piece of wood, then cutting it to length, then measuring another piece of wood, then cutting it to length, results in two pieces of slightly different lengths because you can’t repeat your measurement or your marking or your cutting to perfection. You simply say “I want a box of yay size”, and then either put a backstop on your saw or saw both pieces at the same time.

            Unless you actually need to make something to very exact specifications, people who go around the shop with a millimeter ruler in their hand are simply wasting time.

        2. So, for you it’s more intuitive to be 6ft tall, but not 2m, weigh 180 pounds, but not 82 kg. I doubt a gallon or cup is more relatable to one’s body than liters. BTW, the is human body about 18 gallons/288 cups (70 liter). It’s easy enough to find relatable measurement on one’s body in either system. I know that my thumb at the joint is one inch, but also the width of my hand is 10 centimeter.

          As far as ease of math, what number drill are you going to use for a 1/8″ hole with 3/32″ total clearance? Or, is there a letter drill that is closer?

          How heavy is the water in a filled bathtub? Getting a good estimate is much easier for individuals having grown up in the metric system.

          Grandma can still bake her pies with 1/4 cup measurements. Same with some special trade measurements (carat, …).

          Re: “Might be convenient for sitting at a desk, but when it comes to measuring or building one, …” How is that? Do explain …

          How long is 1/5 of a 2ft length that’s 1/64 short? Anyone can easily divide a one meter bar that is a mm short into 5 pieces. What unit is your answer in? Feet, decimal inches, I hope not fractional inches. Good.

          Most visitors to this site build, repair, design with, imported items having metric measurements, and components. What about vehicle repair? I would love to hear an argument why we all need two sets of tools, that are almost identical. Just so you can relate a “foot” to your foot?

          In the end, what justification is there to save a system that 95% of the world doesn’t use. The rest of the world is growing faster than the US. Being a stick in the mud only hurts us (US citizen).

          1. to John’s Comment “Imperial drill bit sizes, they usually use a binary system with each drill bit being half of the next size up. … ”

            I nearly busted a neuron figuring out what you meant by drill sizes use a binary system. I don’t think they do. Never seen a drill described as being “00001101” before. I guess you’re referring to 1/32 being half of 1/16, which is half of 1/8, …

            Is that really better than 1.2mm being half of 2.4mm?

            I would like to hear a real world application, where it is easier to use imperial than metric. Dividing a foot into twelve not allowed … and not “you-centric”. Just because you have a better “feel” for what an inch is over a centimeter, is really just based on what you’re used to, not a better system.

          2. Anyone that cannot see that bases 12 and 16 are orders of magnitude easier than 10 is not looking correctly. A lot of Imperial units are 12 or 16 or factors / multipliers of. Even 14 (lb / stone) is the same as 10 as far as factors goes.

            If you have not been educated in both then you are not qualified to comment anyway. You will always find the one you were taught to be the easier.

            If you have been educated in, and use both systems then I guess that more people would come down in favour of Imperial but that is just a feeling.

          3. >. A lot of Imperial units are 12 or 16 or factors

            Actually, only some are.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_units#/media/File:English_Length_Units_Graph.svg

            From “line” to “inch” to “foot” there’s a factor of 12. The rest are all over the place with weird factors like 3,11,15, or even 7/8 between an inch and a finger. A factor of 16 is nowhere to be found, and the practice of breaking inches down into fractions was replaced in engineering by dividing into thousands during the industrial revolution because part tolerances are make much more sense in decimal units rather than relative fractions.

            The same is apparent with weight measurements:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_the_imperial_and_US_customary_measurement_systems#/media/File:English_mass_units_graph.svg

            The different fractions go all over the place. In the US the common conversion factors follow the Avoirdupois system, which goes 7000:16:16:16:25:4:20 from grain to short ton – but the troy weight system, and the apothecaries’ system are also used in parallel, so you have to know what you’re measuring to know what the numbers and fractions mean.

          4. In response to John’s Comment:
            “Anyone that cannot see that bases 12 and 16 are orders of magnitude easier … ”
            Please supply a real world example.

            “If you have not been educated in both then you are not qualified to comment anyway. You will always find the one you were taught to be the easier.”

            I grew up in the US until I was 8. Then lived in Europe for 16. Back in US since then. Professionally, I work in both systems daily. I both know and feel both systems. Like knowing two languages very well. I’m qualified.

            Looking forward to your real-world example of Imperial being magnitudes superior.

        3. Should I assume that there is only one shoe size in America, one foot long? I guess there is as long everyone makes their own shoes “on individual basis.” But that’s fitting, not measurement.
          And converting between different fractions of an inch is fun for you to do on the fly?
          About arbitrariness, water boils at 100 degrees freezes at zero, one meter pendulum has 1 second half period, one cubic meter of water is one ton. Easy to remember and reproduce almost anywhere on earth, more reliable than body parts.

          1. “water boils at 100 degrees freezes at zero”

            This is the one thing I don’t like in metric. The nice part of the Fahrenheit system is that one degree is about the smallest temperature change a human can feel. One degree Celsius is almost twice that. So all digital Celsius thermometers have to be three digits including a decimal place to convey the same amount of useful information as a two-digit Fahrenheit thermometer. Then they compound the annoyance by using all ten digits in that single decimal place which is false precision. Dumb. How about we just make Felsuis or Fahrsius a thing with a scale of zero for freezing and 200 for boiling? Best of both worlds!

          2. You can’t actually feel a one F difference in real life – only in careful controlled comparison between two objects.

            And it wasn’t even designed that way. It’s just a post-hoc rationalization that people use. In real life, one C is about the smallest difference you can actually feel, as in whether it’s +19 or +20 outside and even that barely makes a difference.

          3. Dude!

            First, thank you for confirming that 1 degree F is about the smallest change a human can feel.

            Second, to be clear: I’m on board with metric. But the loss of useful precision in the arbitrary Celsius scale is a real annoyance to me. I’ve offered an equally arbitrary solution that would improve it. What solution have you offered?

          4. >the loss of useful precision in the arbitrary Celsius scale

            There is no practical application where you would need a temperature down to a precision of 0.1 degrees C. You can report all temperatures with two digits, as they do in European weather forecasts.

            Your reasoning that:

            >all digital Celsius thermometers have to be three digits including a decimal place to convey the same amount of useful information as a two-digit Fahrenheit thermometer.

            This is simply wrong. You can easily have 100 F (~39 C) temperatures outside, or in your car, or your hot tub, or when you’re brewing beer… etc. where you do need three-digit precision out of your thermometer, whereas the Celsius meter can do with two digits. This is because a 1 F difference really does not matter – it is not useful information. In fact most thermometers aren’t even accurate down to 1 F and it’s just false precision.

          5. Besides, in controlled experiments, it’s possible for humans to detect 0.02-0.07 °C differences so it’s really a myth that 1 F is some sort of “natural quantity of temperature”.

            https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/30952/how-precisely-can-we-sense-temperature-differences

            In fact, under normal circumstances it’s likely you can detect a temperature variation between 0.1 – 0.2 C which makes the two point one digit Celsius thermometer the “natural” one.

      1. Except a US survey mile isn’t based on that definition of inch, so the survey measurements aren’t SI based as is, but there are plans on switching survey data to international miles (SI based) from the end of 2022.

        So it depends on if you look at road signs or an odometer if the US is “metric”.

      2. True.

        As a side note, I would love to see what percentage of the US population could correctly answer how may feet are in a mile and fl.oz. in a gallon. I bet less that 1%. It shouldn’t be that hard, unless the system, isn’t a system …

        1. “I bet less that 1%”

          5280ft and 128oz (without looking it up). You underestimate the amount of baking & walking done in the US.

          I’d like to see what percentage of the EU population could correctly answer how many meters are in kilometer. The wrong answers will be good for a laugh.

          By the way, is beer still sold in Pints in the EU?

          1. How many cubic inch per fl. ounce?
            What’s the weight of a cubic foot of water? How many gallons is that?

            A ten year old would know the answers in Metric.

          2. re: “I’d like to see what percentage of the EU population could correctly answer how many meters are in kilometer. The wrong answers will be good for a laugh.”

            That would be funny. And then someone tells the six year old, that “kilo” means a thousand. Now he know a kilo-meter is one thousand meters, 1 kilo-gram is 1000g, 1 kilo-volt is 1000V. Smart kid.

            You know there aren’t 5280 inches in a foot? Or anywhere else in the Imperial system? Nor, 128 pounds in a ton.

            re: “By the way, is beer still sold in Pints in the EU?”

            Bet it’s manufactured and quality checked using metric units.

            And it’s very good.

          3. Re: “By the way, is beer still sold in Pints in the EU?”

            I suspect a quarter-pounder with cheese will also be available long after we embrace the Metric system. Nothing wrong with that.

          4. > could correctly answer how many …

            kiloPascals of pressure are in your bicycle tires?

            cubic meters of liquid is in a wine bottle?

            seconds in a three days?

            kilojoules in a healthy diet?

            Point being that liter, bar, calorie and hour are not “metric” (SI) units, but accepted convenience units. No different than gallon, ounce, inch and mile.

      1. San Francisco and New Orleans have catenary overhead power for their streetcars. I’d be williing to bet that (say) Entergy Corporation (who run the streetcars and the nuclear and oil/gas-fired power plants which power New Orleans’ streetcars) could give you an energy use analysis for those streetcars in any units you like in a week.

    2. “Imperial”, as in Empire? I thought the US rejected the Imperial system in the 1770s already, when the fish enjoyed some English tea in the sea water around Boston?

        1. Speaking for the US, Google says that the interstates alone are 47,432 miles of roadway which would get very spendy in a hurry.. Also, for railways (much simpler use case) there’s this:

          “Overhead lines, like most electrified systems, require a greater capital expenditure when building the system than an equivalent non-electric system. While a conventional rail line requires only the grade, ballast, ties and rails, an overhead system also requires a complex system of support structures, lines, insulators, power-control systems and power lines, all of which require maintenance. This makes non-electrical systems more attractive in the short term, although electrical systems can pay for themselves eventually. Also, the added construction and maintenance cost-per-mile makes overhead systems less attractive on long-distance railways, such as those found in North America, where the distances between cities are typically far greater than in Europe. Such long lines require enormous investment in overhead line equipment, and major difficulties confront energizing long portions of overhead wire on a permanent basis, especially in areas where energy demand already outstrips supply. ”

          Also, if we’re populated by fatuous idiots who think 5G monitors brainwaves while causing cancer, imagine the fallout from running a whole lot of low-clearance high-voltage cabling all over the roads.

          1. In the US, and other large countries you wouldn’t have to electrify every highway at once.

            Start with the most travelled interstates. The ones that you get most bang for the buck from. I know there are plenty of rural interstates with just two lanes in each direction and relatively low traffic levels.

        2. And a consistent standard, which everyone (installers, maintainers, operators and users) will stick to.
          And hopefully no electric trucks that breaks down in the running lanes, blocking all of the electric trucks behind them.
          And no dodgy operators cutting corners to save a few bucks, putting everyone else who uses the system at risk.
          Yeah, like I trust that that’s going to happen.

          1. Electric truck would need either last mile diesel generator or better battery pack to leave autobahn and move to logistics centre and then on its yard to get to client and so on. So broken truck would be just passed like they do now.

      1. @Ostracus said: “Seems it would be cheaper and easier to solve the battery problem than rewire the world.”

        Yeah, and then there’s the catastrophy that would be brought on by a large Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the Sun, or the Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) from a high altitude nuclear weapon detonation. Not only would our electricity grid fail, so would our supply chain transportation system.

        1. “Not only would our electricity grid fail, so would our supply chain transportation system.”

          Modern trucks have a lot of electronic systems, for shifting, braking, engine performance…
          I think they’d be just as dead as the overhead wire trucks.

          1. EMP mainly affects the grid infrastructure because the wavelength tends to be very long. Small objects like cars or cellphones are just not big enough to act as effective antennas.

  1. I can’t even imagine the cost of building and maintaining this through the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, Canada. I can see going across the prairies without any problems, but the eastern and western provinces provide massive obstacles.

      1. we perfected that literally a hundred years ago. The key to keeping a train stable is not so much in the rails, however it is in the wheels. They are not cylindrical, but conical. This allows a train to actually corner and remain stable at speed. The only reason to decrease tolerances is to reduce weight. ie: wheels don’t have to be as wide. You can literally glue two cylindrical cones together and roll it on two wavy ass rails and it’ll do just fine because the forces keep the center of those cones in the middle of wherever the rail is. #mechanicalengineering

      1. Tumbler Ridge electrification decommissioned in 2000. It was a nice trial and the first 50kV line in the world at the time. This voltage requires extended clearances which makes it tricky to implement (if there are any bridges or tunnels). An alternative 25/25kV to ground is a way to reduce the clearance requirements. Either way, would trucks have space to down-covert these high voltages to motor usable levels? Go back 100 years and we have 3000VDC, but this requires many sub-stations, and there is the cost!

        1. BMLP beat them to 50 kV by a decade (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Mesa_and_Lake_Powell_Railroad).

          With railroads, you cannot implement a split phase system (like the 25 kV/25 kV scheme you propose) unless you go with a dual catenary like used by 3 phase systems (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-phase_AC_railway_electrification).
          For a road application, where you need two wires anyway, this is not a huge issue.

          Very high voltages aren’t a big deal with modern power electronics.
          Since most power electronics-based voltage conversion starts with rectification to DC, you can even use HVDC to power the trucks, which reduces losses further.

          Due to the space and weight constraints of trucks, the locomotive approach of starting power conversion with a massive mains-frequency transformer is a non-starter in my opinion. It will more likely be a series in, parallel out arrangement of 10-50 (depending on voltage rating and use of wide bandgap devices) small transformer-based converters that each rectify (if needed) and convert a small part of the power to a more reasonable voltage for the motor drive.

    1. Same with the USA. lots of flat land in the middle, bracketed by mountain ranges. The Rockies running through Idaho have been such an obstacle that there are no major roads across the State except way down south. Then there’s the issue of all that mountain space with only a few twisty roads is mostly federal wilderness area.

      The Rockies are also a transport issue in the States south of Idaho. So much so that the Gadsen Purchase of 1853 was made in order to get land easier to run the transcontinental railroad across.

      1. I didn’t want to assume that people would know where British Columbia is. I just felt it was necessary to specify the country and province as the Rocky Mountains run through both the USA and Canada. With Canada’s much lower population spread over such a huge area the cost per person for such a system could be very high. Even with our similar geography not everything that is physically achievable in either country is always a sound economic move for Canada.

  2. I would expect the economics to work out better over long distances, not worse. The problem with rail transport is always that it’s only from terminal to terminal, not from source to destination. If you’re trying to move a container from Southampton to Inverness, you still need a lorry to get it from the source to a railway and from the railway to the destination, then wait for a train that’s going the right way; in almost every case, it works out cheaper to just put it on a lorry and pay someone to drive it where you want it to go. If you’re trying to move a container from Southampton to Vladivostok, it probably does make sense to put it on the train; it’ll get there cheaper and quicker. If you’re moving a container from Southampton to Portsmouth, the train will cost significantly more and take days longer.

    1. Are you confusing Economy of Scale with longer distances?
      The further the path, the higher the cost. Here is why: longer path = more wire; more power loss (longer the wire the higher the resistance); Frequency of Use also goes (way) down when comparing long paths versus short paths inside cities.

      1. No.

        Accept, for the moment, that once the infrastructure is in place, it’s cheaper to move an ISO container a mile on a train than on a lorry. This is pretty obviously true, because you’re only paying one driver to move hundreds of containers, trains are more fuel efficient per ton of cargo etc. Even when you amortise the extra infrastructure costs across all the freight the line ever carries, it still works out cheaper. The article accepts this premise.

        But the train has gross inefficiencies in the first and last mile; you need to connect a lorry with a train at each end and transport it the first and last mile.

        For a short journey, these inefficiencies are such a large fraction of the overall costs that it’s almost always cheaper to just put it on a lorry and send it where you want it to go.

        For a much longer journey, the first- and last-mile inefficiency is only a small fraction of the overall cost, and so the better per-mile efficiency of the train means it can outperform the lorry overall.

          1. Even then there is always going to be a cross over point where a journey is short or so indirect by rail that the now rather more expensive big diesel hauler is still cheaper.
            Rails don’t go everywhere, and going a long way north to get onto the rails that then carry you back southward with that extra bit of east/west is probably not any greener and takes a great deal longer..

            Really can’t see this overhead wire on the roads being a workable solution in general, overhead wires have so many challenges with weather and are vulnerable to breakages through accidents and falling trees. The embodied energy in the infrastructure and the maintenance costs to do this to more than a few roads will be crippling – however if you focus on just a few major roads betweens ports/rail hubs and big manufacturing locations then it becomes a cheaper to construct version of a railway and will see enough use to make the effort worth it – might even make it possible for all large long haulers to become electric as they can run the bulk of their journeys on these roads that charge them up again as they go so they always have the range for the trips into and out of cities and towns without this catenary. (this does however mean many of these major roads are going to become much more jammed up – its going to be a real planning nightmare to get right)

          2. Raise the cost of oil, and you raise the cost of the products carried by the trucks, trains, and ships. Not that big a problem if we are only speaking about giant TVs and fancy new shoes. But we are also talking about the cost of the bulk food that we supply in large volumes to the world’s poor.
            You should also account for planetary destruction caused by large numbers of people who are hungry, and thus angry. If it comes down to it, they will absolutely cook the last elephant from a fire made from the last baobab tree.

        1. Analogous to how it can be just as quick to drive on trips of 200 miles or less than it is to fly, due to the length of time it takes to go to the airport closest to you, all the waiting before you get on the plane, all the waiting after getting on the plane, and all the waiting at the end of the flight. A bus can be quicker, if it’s an express that doesn’t stop anywhere else, if there’s a place you can get on a bus.

    2. Most of the big European haulage firms now have a rail section. For large contracts through several countries (eg UK to Italy) they will use lorries to collect containers, put them on a train, then collect them with more lorries the other end. If the load is big enough they may even have a whole train load. In any case I have a personal experience. In the early 90s I had a job booked in Milan. I live in London. I got a local train to Waterloo where I joined the Eurostar to Brussels via Lyon. There I changed to a German ICE to Munich, where I joined a EuroIntercity train to Milan. This train had started in Rotterdam, Holland! I chose this route BECAUSE of the changes. I love trains! If I didn’t want to change, I could have driven to Amsterdam via the channel tunnel and got the train direct to Milan. In Europe nearly all the major cities have been joined up by electric trains, and similarly for freight. The Channel Tunnel makes most of it’s income from freight. European truck manufacturers are all either testing or selling production versions of BE trucks for not just the last mile, but for the less than 200K (120miles) trips. The driving force is not just lower pollution and green energy, it is reduction running costs. And just for the record, there are some multiple unit trains running around in Europe, that have batteries, overhead panto-graphs AND a diesel range extender! There are even some with 3rd rail gear as well. And multiple voltages. They are called FLIRTs! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stadler_FLIRT

      I’m dubious about overhead power lines for trucks, other than on nice straight flat sections. With the speeds involved, the line structures don’t need to be more than that used for trams and trolley buses, and there plenty of experience there. In this field Seimens are one of the leaders. However bends and elevation changes need complications to maintain the overhead line tension, adding to the cost. I will have to read their press release to see how they see the trade offs.

      1. Oversized and odd shaped loads won’t be compatible with overhead power lines. There’s a lot of those kinds of loads which move around American highways, especially with all the giant wind turbines being put up all over. All the big turbofan engines for Boeing are hauled up Interstate 95 through Idaho. One to a flatbed and the large diameter fan housings are way up high under their protective tarps.

    3. tomkcook said “…in almost every case, it works out cheaper to just put it on a lorry and pay someone to drive it where you want it to go”. That ‘cheaper’ bit comes courtesy of a totally bogus economic approach that has us effectively appropriating wealth from future generations to fund our lavish and irresponsible lifestyles. If the cost of fuel took into account the environmental damage it produces and the use of non-renewable resources it represents, it would be so cost-prohibitive that only energy from the sun, the wind, and possibly nuclear reactors would be economically feasible.

      1. I suspect they’ll be able to move one lane over, as can the electric buses in Toronto. They’d pretty well have to allow for it – can’t have one stalled car holding up a freight delivery for who knows how long when traffic is otherwise flowing well.

    1. Trains are bad at “short” distances, mixed goods, multiple distribution points and not accessible areas.

      As far as I know, Germany has more than 100% load for cargo on its existing train system. There is simply no slot for additional trains. And no room to build tracks. And then there are those stupid people who want “green” transportation but please not in my backyard.

      1. Overhead electric lorries are also bad at multiple distribution points to inaccessible areas… which is everywhere but the big roads.

        Let’s use solar roadways too. Makes about the same amount of sense.

        RR’s are already the greenest of transport, and electrification would make it more so. But in “Murica they are losing. Why??

        1. “Overhead electric lorries are also bad at multiple distribution points to inaccessible areas… which is everywhere but the big roads.”

          Only if you’re an idiot and put super-tiny batteries on the trucks. Otherwise they can go “off the rails” for short trips perfectly fine, and when they come back, they’ll recharge the portion they used.

        2. The USA has a massive flat space in the middle where not many people live. Low population density makes large, long distance, infrastructure projects cost prohibitive to serve so few.

          Criss-crossing the flat middle there are a lot of roads, mostly two lane asphalt, most of that has only ever been paved one time so a lot of the roads are crumbling to tar coated gravel. There were a few major roads like Route 66 connecting many towns. Then the Interstate Highway System was begun and it sucked up the lion’s share of money and attention, while also routing drivers far away from many of the places the old highways connected. Then came jet airliners, which put a big crimp in individual road travel, as well as bus and rail.

          Out toward both sides there are mountains, lots of mountains, also mostly with a low population density, and in the West a lot of it is ‘land of no use’ AKA wilderness. Nobody to build stuff for, where it could be built, and much of where it could be built is rugged land that would make it more expensive.

          The east coast and geographically misnamed “midwest” are thoroughly saturated with roads, and Amtrak still has quite a lot of stations in the northeast and “midwest”. Everywhere else in the USA the railroads are almost exclusively used for freight moving long distances, with few places outside large cities for loading and unloading.

          Many people in smaller, higher population density countries simply don’t grasp the idea of how much of a lot of nothing there is in the USA. Go for a drive across Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska. Desert, more desert, more desert, still more desert, Little America, corn, more corn, still more corn…

          1. It’s not that we don’t understand the emptiness of the flyover states – it’s that most Americans live near the coasts with exactly the same or higher population densities as Europe.

            It’s a completely artificial argument to say that the US is empty. It is empty because nobody goes there.

    2. Thing is, these aren’t trains. The advantage of a train is that it can move a LOT of stuff reasonably quickly while only having to pay a couple of people to do it. This effect is considerable; it’s perfectly possible for a train with two people on board to haul hundreds of containers that would required employing hundreds of drivers to move with lorries.

      This isn’t that. This still means paying all the lorry drivers. It’s just changing the lorry fuel.

        1. These aren’t really in competition with long range freight railways any more than that are in competition with the super large cargo carrier ships. Maybe in some areas even in the pretty vast US they will do long haul depot to depot routes with this method.. But this method to me screams Europe (and probably inside the more urban US states) – so many cities and towns all needing goods delivered and the rails only go to the central hubs not to every little spot this is hopeing to get the versatility of HGV and Electrified railway efficencies in one package. It might even work well enough..

      1. You would be paying the lorry drivers anyway – the first and last stage of any delivery isn’t by rail and can’t be except in the vary rare (now) cases of railway built specifically for that purpose between ports and various industry.

        What this does is allow for hopefully greener deliveries in many cases from source to destination by only the one method and a relatively direct route (electric is only green if its sourced from the right sources or the fossil fuel plants really clean up their output). I’m not convinced it works – catenary systems are expensive to build and maintain and really can’t be run everywhere. But if the ‘slow’ lane on major transit routes is electrified like this over enough area it allows for transport to everywhere from everywhere with no exhaust pollution – just plan the routes such that the 50/100 mile (whatever it turns out to be) range of the HGV’s on their batteries gets them to and from the overhead recharge them maybe just maybe it will.

    3. but, but, but, Musk already reinvented the tunnel at least 3 consecutive times in the last 10 years. let’s build battery powered pods for those tucks. that finally withstand a slam with a sledgehammer

  3. Electrifying trucks is an interesting concept. (Though, I have heard of this concept literally years ago…)
    And there is also an idea to put the power delivery system into the road itself, and use an arm to pick up the power. (or course with its own set of downsides, but there has been a prototype of this in northern Stockholm. And it were mildly successful.)

    Though, the main advantage to these forms of power delivery isn’t just that it drives the truck, but also that it can charge said truck along the way. Making the final journey easier as well.

    But it doesn’t technically beat trains when we talk about power efficiency, and especially not in terms of spreading rubber dust into the air. (And roads wear a bit faster than rail road tracks if we look at a similar amount of freight being moved over it.)

    Trains on the other hand have their own rather huge downside. They don’t work all that great for short distances. And train sorting yards are rather slow, and moving containers of and onto trains is also painstakingly slow. Now both of these can technically be solved through various means, but fact of the matter is that trains only start making sense if we at the very minimum go between cities.

    Though, one big things making trains currently less lucrative is the simple fact that loading cargo onto them, and getting a driver on the other terminal to drive the cargo to the destination is generally not trivial. (Though, larger logistics companies do consolidate these things, thankfully we don’t need to manage how each and every package/envelope we send gets transacted between different modes of transportation.)

  4. No estimate on hooking all those offshore windmills to the existing grid?
    Just submitting the Environment Impact Statements (EIS) (and resulting lawsuits from environmental groups) for such in the U.S. could easily double estimates.

    1. Capacity factor was also omitted. 3-5x the number to produce the actual amount of energy, not just the nameplate power output.

      Then more cost to build up the backup generators, and their fuel, and you also have to pay the curtailment compensations for when the grid can’t accept 5 GW of wind power.

  5. “So our back-of-the-envelope calculation for a countrywide network comes in at a shade under £100 bn, definitely in the same ballpark as the high-speed rail project that only serves London and Birmingham, about 125 miles apart.”

    It’s more affordable than that. Just assume the government goes ahead and builds it just as you’re suggesting, and does it straight out of its budget. No charge to anyone. That would provide a *wacko* boost to their economy, both cutting out oil imports entirely (to the tune of about ~$0.5B/year) *and* cutting the entire cost of fuel (+profit to the fuel distributors) from all exports (and imports).

    However, a “free energy wooooo!!” system is pretty damn unlikely: those high-speed rail systems aren’t ticket-free, after all. So how much could the government *sell* that system they just built for? You just built a system that replaced ~1.5M gallons of diesel/day, which in the UK would be around $10M/day, or 3.65B/year. Assume the company shaves off 30% of the fuel price to kill the diesel industry, so it’s worth $2.5B/year. It’s conceivable that the government would be able to sell it for around $50B or so (or operate it at a profit at that level).

    Worth noting that the back-of-the-envelope estimate still suggests that a company on their own probably wouldn’t do something like this, as it’s not a totally obvious win economically.

    1. It certainly does seem like it might work in the UK, though overhead wires have always proved costly to build and maintain. However to work for the UK we would absolutely need to pull the finger out and build Nuclear power plants as nothing else is able to give enough energy to replace so much hydrocarbon fuel. Good as renewable are its not going to be possible to create enough electric to replace so much oil consistently (if it is even possible with the UK’s land area vs energy demand even under ideal conditions- which I seriously doubt) and burning fossil fuels in a power station is usually greener but once you add in the conversion and transmission inefficiencies I’d doubt it works out much better – though the air will be cleaner which is a small win I suppose.

      If such a system were built it isn’t hard to charge for it – the transport companies get their fuel taxed to the point they want to buy into this cheaper per mile system, pay their subscription fee for free access (or even meter the HGV’s if you really want to charge for unit consumed). Sure you will get scumbags and cheaters trying to tap in, but like all systems its not worth it for the bigger haulage companies – if they get caught cheating its too much to loose. And the dishonest individuals will eventually get caught and prosecuted while not making up a meaningful percentage of load on the system.

  6. ROFL – there is such a 4km test lane between Darmstadt and Langen on the German Autobahn A5. I never saw a test lorry, but are always impressed by the overhead wiring and the immense effort to keep them where they are. So, they don’t spend money on keeping the lanes themselves in order, but the overhead wire? I question that. They stripped most of the O-busses (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oberleitungsbus) using this technology for decades from the cities and then wire the motorways? I call that “spending-not-my-money.de”. This is no innovation, this is eyewashing at its finest. How stupid do such “inventors” think tax payers are?

  7. So I might be missing something obvious here, but wouldn’t the lorry need at least 2 pantographs?

    Trains get one line from their wheels and the rails to earth, and the other one via the pantograph, a lorry can’t, or we need to add a metal groove or something, which will be fun for motorcycles. Trolleybusses use 2 “fishing rods” along 2 wires with switches. They can’t go much over 50km/h because of sideways acceleration of the fishing rods.

    I guess it could be done with 2 parallel wires and batteries for overtakes and on/off ramps, but one swerve in lane and it’s all welded together (was in a train were this happened, took 8 hours to get it going again).

    If this could work you wouldn’t need to electrify everything, just the motorways. Last and first miles could be done with relatively small batteries that charge while on the motorway (and plugs). this solves a need in that for medium distances (were lorries are used now), you could load the lorry at one end and unload it at the other, instead of load lorry 1, reload on train, reload on lorry 2, unload. allthough a roro traincar does nearly the same thing, nearly as quickly and a decent bit more economically.

    So yeah, I’m missing something or this is an “artists impression”

    1. https://press.siemens.com/global/en/feature/ehighway-solutions-electrified-road-freight-transport

      Videos of real trucks, plus a number of links to the German trials. Interestingly one of the pages is on the website of Schleswig-Holstein the German state holding the trial, which runs to 2022. https://www.ehighway-sh.de/de/ehighway.html The page talks about the wires being installed, but that was in 2018. The Guardian page says it has been in operation for some time.

    2. When you look closely at the Siemens image: There are two wires in parallel, + and -, and on the pantograph there are also two collectors taking the DC from the two wires. And there are each 50 m or less a pole to lift the wires up; resource sparing is different.

  8. No need to electrify each and every mile. Look at the petrol stations – they are separated by stretches of road and you occasionally detour to tank up your reservoir. Electrify certain stretches of road, where rigs will recharge their batteries without stopping, and continue driving on battery power after they reach end of it, untill the next “powered lane”.

    1. I think something like this would help improve electric truck mileage in areas like mine where there are lots of very steep hills. Charge/tether for the uphill, regen breaking for the downhill.

    2. We talk about 40+ ton trucks here; what would the load be and the mass of the battery needed? We should prohibit physics then we would have no issue with friction or resistance or other such efficiency decreasing things ;-) By the way, what about room-temperature superconductivity we are promised since the 1980s?

    3. My thought as well. If electric trucks are viable at all, then this kind of helper system for longer/harder streches with some minimum amount of traffic would make it better.

      Another possible option would be precharged battery trailer, which you could swap at the gas station.

      1. There was a guy named Shai Agassi with the idea to switch batteries at stations (Ok, the idea came from Switzerland). The issue on this was and is, that the industry does not commit on standard batteries – so every producer will further have different geometries of batteries being incompatible even between models; switching then becomes nearly impossible as you cannot keep all kinds of batteries at a station… Standardization is for the controllers ;-)

  9. Another carbon-heavy solution to the carbon problem. Takes a lot of energy to mine, smelt, string, and maintain millions of miles of pantograph cables.

    Look, ALL of our self-inflicted environmental problems have one root cause: Too many people.

    Until we are ready to address that head-on, everything else is just fiddling while Rome burns.

    There will be massive human population reduction in the future. That’s obvious now. The only question is will we do it voluntarily on a schedule we choose? Or will war, famine, and pestilence do it for us? No amount of electric trucks, cars, solar panels, windmills, or even ships to Mars will stop the latter if we don’t do the former.

      1. Some of the earliest farm science from antiquity covers stocking rates of cattle sheep and humans per unit of land. It was an accepted fact from antiquity that land has a finite carrying capacity.

      2. Maybe you are familiar with the ongoing Holocene Extinction Event. What makes you think there won’t be a problem when 9-10 billion people are trying to eat everything in sight during an ecological collapse? (Or 50 billion, as you wrongly suggest the ecosystem could support.)

        Your response is common from people who are bad at math and big numbers. Duckduckgo for “Sustainable Means Bunkty to Me” and read a little.

  10. “However much I have a weakness for the sight of a big rig at full stretch”

    Said absolutely no one who drives to work and back each day ever.

    I can see where this idea may be an improvement over the diesel trucks we have today I don’t think it’s the right solution. For obvious reasons these trucks still have batteries for the last mile right? Well, that’s the only part of the trip that should be by truck in the first place. Long distances should be done by train where all those economies of scale come into play. The train could be electric though.

  11. It has mystified me for a long time why the focus on autonomous vehicles has been on cars.A lot of the world has driver’s hours regulation for haulage meaning that the vehicle is inert for 12+ hours of the day. If the tractor was a drone it could theoretically operate indefinitely at a speed which would allow a better chance of maintaining connection to overhead power on roads which are frequently more irregular than rails. You can go further at 50 kph in 24 hours than 90 kph in 12 hours.

  12. The world is awash with fossil fuels and LPG products. The only reason changes to ‘electric’ are suggested are based on dubious claims of future catastrophe that has never had a single past prediction come true – in other words we’re being held to ransom by scaremongers. Not a new concept or method.

    It’s not as if the planet has to funds to finance these speculative motive changes either (most rely on taxation for development and production). We need to use what’s available, what we can afford and not submit to a minority of scaremongers.

  13. So you are saying all this I read in respectable media about massive climate change and the complete collapse of ecosystems (among other problems) won’t have any effect on ultimately 9-10 billion people? Who hasn’t done their research?

    Your response and sid’s are what I often get from people who are bad at math.
    I humbly suggest reading a few posts here as to why population (and associated economic growth aka energy consumption) is the problem: https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/

    A good one to start with: https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/10/sustainable-means-bunkty-to-me/

    If you can disprove that math, I’m listening.

  14. I think trucks are definitely the goal. But there are far more cars and, they churn much more quickly compared to trucks. They are using cars as the beta test for rapid iteration first. I expect by 2040 most truckers will not be human. The human former truckers will, of course, all learn to code in Python instead. ;)

  15. okay this is another Train Good, Truck Bad comment, but seriously, if you’re transporting things that far just put it all on a goddamn train! Trains can do last-mile, too! The paper mill near me has a mile long rail spur going down a city street JUST for the paper mill. Build more train track and less roads! Rail is a lot cheaper to lay and maintain than highways, and trains are far more efficient than the equivalent number of trucks needed to ship the same amount of cargo. And most railway companies have shittons of right-of-way to build new tracks if need be.

    MORE TRAINS.

    1. I think many of those right-of-ways in the USA have been abandoned/sold/surrendered over the last 50-60 years. And woe betide any railroad that attempts to use any remaining slumbering r-o-w’s now as all the NIMBY’s who live nearby will file enough lawsuits to paper the Moon!

      1. looking at tax maps around me, there’s still a ton of ROW/easements held by CSX and CP that go back to the D&H and NYCRR days. and NIMBYs are less of an issue than the complete lack of corporate or political pressure to build more tracks, unfortunately.

        a feline can dream, I guess.

  16. I watched 2 post nuke BDA films the other day on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Japan. Rubble everywhere a year after the event and then a trolley passes by on the barely cleared street. Get ‘er done!

  17. I think it would be more economical to build a 2 lane “drone truck only” road parallel with the US interstates and just have trailers autonomously shuffled from hub to hub. Drone trucks can charge automatically while at the hub. Traditional truck drivers can bring loads from local hub to destination. No expensive overhead wires to build and maintain. Autonomous scardy cats can’t complain because the traffic is segregated (for now). Basically the same thing the train people want; but different.

  18. Surely inductive charging embedded in the road (such as the system Qualcomm has developed) would be better – less fragile to weather etc, but more importantly smaller vehicles could also use it.

    1. this is not a phone…a fright truck NEEDS well over 200kW of available engine power and a matching battery. Now imagine what it would take to wirelessly charge something like this in any reasonable amount of time.
      Battery vehicles don’t scale very well. They do great for various light bikes, scooters and alike, wiping the floor with small ICEs. They’re OK-ish in cars, but definitely worse then ICEs. In big trucks, they are borderline useless because of the piss-poor storage efficiency of batteries.
      So far, one of the few possible ways are fuel cells, but those still have a long way to go before being ready.

  19. How are they going to work if there is no sun or wind? Where they going to created the electric from? And they said that it was tested in Europe! Are there mountains to cross between city and state? Guess lot of information is not being told!

  20. You’re forgetting something for the USA. All roads have a minimum clearance for trucks. Read that on NASA’s website regarding transporting the spacex rocket.
    Now put overhead power lines (a pair of them). This is going to reduce the height by a not insignificant amount. In one foul swoop you have made a lot of trucks obsolete, limited what can now be hauled on US roads.

  21. Electric vehicles dependent upon overhead wiring and trolleys, or pantographs, simply do not scale well. Period. End of discussion.

    Consider one of the most successful locomotives, ever: the Pennsylvania Railroad’s class GG1 locomotive (look it up). It was electric, with a pantograph at each end of its symmetric carriage. And it was an absolute beauty, from all design standpoints: aesthetically, engineering, and commercially. It saw revenue service for approximately forty years, but only in the very limited confines of the ‘Northeast Corridor’ of the United States.
    If this mode of transportation scaled well, the entire rail network of the US–Canada to Mexico, Atlantic to Pacific oceans–would have been taken over by GG1s, or their equivalent(s), along with all the requisite, accompanying infrastructure; but, obviously, something was–and is–is very wrong with the model.

    What’s wrong? The answer is exceedingly easy: this mode of transportation and goods delivery simply does not scale well. At all.

  22. I think that this will be done someday on bigger highways and to the bigger cargo centres and industrial parks. And Tesla needs to start designing universal overhead power takeout NOW. They will charge batteries and at the same time stabilise grid power, because their consumption looks like it is quite stable. Or make them diesel electric. You would start the diesel only when not enough power, at steep climbing or to get to areas without overhead line.

  23. What about if we removed the rubber from the wheels and added a continuous steel rod sort of things in the road surface that the truck would sit on. Wouldn’t that be an OK system for shifting a lot of stuff long distances? You could make really long trucks with only a driver needed at the front and maybe someone keeping guard at the back. It would probably be a good idea to move it off the actual road surface to land at the side of the road.

  24. Just as well there is no real issue with CO2 on an ongoing basis. For the science on that see,

    The Rise and Fall of the Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change
    Rex J. Fleming
    Springer 2020
    ISBN: 9783030168797

    Anyhoo hydrogen is the future of large transport vehicles, that and large rapidly changeable battery packs, so either way we don’t need to implement such a ridiculously out of date idea that needs massive amounts of iron to be smelted to build all of the infrastructure, not to mention all of the aluminium or copper for the conductors, which is needed for the vehicles themselves.

  25. I think a lot of the points being brought up is from Americans or other less densely populated cultures. In europe, a lof of the semi-long haul trucks would benefit hugely from overhead wires like this, and the shorter trucks would be able to run with batteries that wil take them maybe 100-150 km, and maybe with a smaller diesel-generator that will run full-beans to extend that range if required, instead of the 5-700 km required for a full workday. All the points about infrastructure (substations, wind-turbines, etc) is needed no matter what, so the main difference would be that roads need longer overhead wires than trains (since roads are generally longer), but that’s about it.
    Yes, trains are more efficient pr km, but a train carrying 200 containers will need to stop all 200 containers to unload a single pallet, and the infrastructure supporting trucks today is shared with cars and busses, which is a huge bonus. City-busses have used these overhead-wire systems for a long time, and that’s in congested cities with sharp turns, a lot of acceleration/braking and sudden swerving, and if those had that many problems, they wouldn’t be found in cities all over at least europe.
    I personally think this is much more viable than full battery-electric trucks carrying capacity to run a full workday, and this will solve the same problem for longhaul too, which would be hard to use batteries on, since they need to charge at somewhere around 2-3 MW to be feasable, and most servicestations would need to be able to supply at least 3-5 trucks with that kind of power at the same time, along with trucks charging overnight at a lower speed

  26. I wanted to get this in before this topic gets taken down, so I’ll be brief–

    I find it extremely tiresome that SO many people are SO willing to ignore what history and market forces have taught us, and so much of it has to do with ideology; with starry-eyed sophomoric romanticism. “…I think Tesla…”; “…drop-in rechargeable battery packs…”, “…fuel cells…”…

    Grow up, folks. I lived through a major city’s going from light-rail (tracked trolley cars down the middle of the streets). through “trackless-trolleys” (steer-able, no-tracks, ELECTRIC, trolley (pantograph)-and-catenary buses), to now strictly diesel and LNG-powered buses. That’s called–get ready for it–REALITY.

    What is there about the fact that catenary-and-pantograph systems are totally, thoroughly not economically viable?
    What is there about the fact that Elon Musk’s pie-in-the-sky, “pollution-less” system is NOT (and don’t give me that crap about, “Oh, but we’re shifting the pollution-generation to the very large, much-more-efficient power plants out in ‘fly-over’ country (where only the rednecks and rubes have to breathe the pollution).

    You want electric trains? You got it. They are called “diesel-electric”. Each train carries its own miniature power-generation station. It’s available now. It’s been available for a very long time…and will be for a very long time to come, until such time as somewhat-miniature nuclear reactors become available, and economical. The system works, and works right now. Ever heard of something called a “nuclear submarine”? That’s the only kind of practical submarine in our fleet, now.

    You REALLY want to do something about the pollution problem? Start lobbying for nuclear. It is THE only answer which holds ANY promise.
    And that’s a promise.

    1. “You want electric trains? You got it. They are called “diesel-electric”. ”

      A few years ago Warren Buffet (railroad magnate) was looking into using coal dust to power the generators in [his] locomotives. (he also owns a lot of coal mines).

      I guess they would still be called “diesel”, but instead of using Diesel fuel, they’d utilize the diesel effect in the combustion chamber.

      1. You seem to have a penchant for stating “facts”, with no attribution(s) whatever.

        Perhaps you can provide a concrete trail, which we can all follow, as to when, where, and precisely how ‘Warren Buffet’ planned to use coal dust to ‘power the generators; in “his locomotives”.

        “…but instead of using Diesel fuel, they’d utilize the diesel effect in the combustion chamber…”

        Really! This would be the first time EVER that coal dust would be used in place of diesel fuel, in a diesel engine, Not only is this completely unheard of, outside of this Hackaday article and your comment, but it is A REAL ENGINEERING BREAKTHROUGH, if there ever was one.

        For your information, the use of ‘coal dust’, or pulverized coal WAS tried by the Norfolk and Western Railway in one of the largest coal-fired locomotives ever–the N&W 2300, a steam-powered turbine-electric which saw service from 1954 thru 1958, or so. It proved to be too unreliable, as there was no way to keep the coal dust from interfering with the proper operation of the electric motors. And for your further information, the absolute, all-time LARGEST steam locomotive ever built was ALSO fired by coal dust–the C&O Railroad’s M-1 “Chessie”, at 617 tons (US), built for high-speed rail servIce between Cincinnati, OH and Washington, DC. Three prototypes were built. It, and its infrastructure was far too complicated, and the system never saw revenue service; it was scrapped.

        But–the use of coal dust INSIDE A DIESEL ENGINE? IN PLACE OF DIESEL FUEL?

        Attributions, PLEASE.

        *********************************************************************

        Norfolk & Western 2300
        https://www.american-rails.com/jawn-henry.html

        Chesapeake and Ohio class M-1
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chesapeake_and_Ohio_class_M-1

  27. Damn I feel dumb, I just wanted to make a comment about how the overhead wires aren’t really all that great. I mean just come to Vancouver BC and take a ride our Public Transit. But like wow of course all the comments are how the USA should modernise with Metric, which mind they already tried to do but because of a Typo the decided to not.

    1. @ Skyler Azzuolo
      August 15, 2020 at 12:21 am

      …and just exactly what do you have against people taking up all of that space at the beginning of this article showing us how smart they are, arguing about the merits for and against the metric system, when Ms List is trying to make a totally unrelated point?
      Can’t people hijack an article if they want to?

      1. In my defense, I did label my comment “Off topic”.

        But HaD should be glad for all the comments that thread provided (proof to the sideline advertisers that the site has traffic) B^)

        1. Strike a nerve, possibly?

          Did all the others who hijacked this article warn us with the phrase, “Off Topic”? Why not start a discussion about superstring theory, or quantum computing?

          Perhaps one should consult with HaD regarding how “glad” they are. Or not.

          1. @ Ren, 19 August 2020, 7:46 am–

            I find it exceedingly funny–not humorous, but actually, literally funny–that one of the last bastions, one of the last resorts of people who have no defense against being called out for stupidity, or lack of any knowledge on a particular subject while feeling worthy to pontificate on that subject, is to make a comment as to the need for medication (or cessation–“.you need to cut out the caffeine…”) on the part of the person who points out that stupidity or lack…either that, or cursing, or a resort to invoking God…oh, wait; I forget…that’s been done.

            Tell you what: in the interests of giving you the opportunity to make your original point and to ignore the obvious–which we will ALL chalk up to a simple oversight on your part, and not at an attempt at deflection or diversion–if you will SIMPLY ADDRESS your claims–with proof that “…Warren Buffet, the railroad magnate…”, with all his “…coal mines…” and “…diesel locomotives…”, was considering the use of coal dust injected into diesel engines in order to get “…the diesel effect…”, I will have my medical team see if, even with two complete physicals every year, they might have missed the need for “…blood pressure medicine.”

            I am, thank you, in excellent health…I get a lot of my pulmonary exercise from yelling, at the top of my lungs, when appropriate, “horse-sh*t”.

            I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate your concern for my health; as sincerely as is my concern for your intellectual health, ability to argue (from an academic standpoint, of course) a point well, AND regard for absolute fact and the exposition thereof–which I’m certain you are preparing to demonstrate. We will all be waiting…
            *************************************
            “More important than what we know or do not know is what we do not want to know.”–Eric Hoffer

            “I won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.”–William F. Buckley, Jr.

            “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you do know that ain’t so.”–Will Rogers

          2. Thank you [jawnhenry] for your indepth response to my facetious comment.
            I am a bit too tired at the moment to type a cogent (but not entirely necessary) response to yours, maybe at some future time I will re-read our series of statements and further tickle your funny bone. But right now, I want to nap.
            Have a good (or otherwise befitting time of) day.

  28. and from where the electricity pumped onto pantograph linees came from? if it came from carbon/oil combustion, they just move the CO2 emissions form one place to other place. The trick is TO HAVE NOT CO2 EMISSION, not to move them to other place.

    1. …and if everyone not only thought as you do, but simply took the time to invest in small amount of actual thinking, we’d–as well as the entire planet–be well on our way to solving our climate crisis…and it IS a crisis.

      Look, France generates 72% of its electricity needs with nuclear reactors. SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT. Us?: 19%. And we’re way, WAY down the list. If I remember correctly, we don’t even MAKE the list of the top-ten countries (by percentage of nuclear-power-generation vs. total-power demand); but Slovenia does.

      So what’s the problem with a power-generating solution which is pollution-free and can go a long way towards our STATED desire of getting the ‘climate problem’ under control? Simply put: greed, politicization, and a lack of will-power when it comes to a TRUE, well-planned, well-managed engineering approach to the design of commercial nuclear power-generating plants.

      As I said earlier: there’s nothing magic about designing reliable, very efficient, pollution-free nuclear generation. The U.S. Navy has been doing it for years and years.

      Now it’s time to get the politicians, greedy corporations, and “the-sky-is-falling” chicken-little Facebook-mentality bleeding hearts completely out of the way, and get on with the absolutely, completely solvable problem of satisfying our–and the world’s–need for energy…which is only going to increase, and increase exponentially with every passing year.

      ****************************************************************************

      “Common sense is not so common.”–Voltaire

  29. I just dont see how overhead wires…and increasing tropical storms will work….at least in new england. This past storm a few weeks ago killed power for some towns around here for over a week. This is after the utilities spent huge amounts of time/effort cutting massive number of trees along power lines for the last two years.

    When i lived in Boston, kids would sneak up to the back of the electric busses, yank the poles off the wires….and then run away like hell as the driver had to get out and reset the poles back onto the overhead wires…..but they sure beat fumes from diesel busses in town.

    1. “I just dont see how overhead wires…will work….at least in new england…

      Your point applies not only to New England, but applies everywhere.

      The entire reason for the lack of economic justification is the lack of scalability of a catenary (over-head wire) power-delivery system. It is NOT SCALABLE; ‘scalability’ meaning, i.e., “cost-goes-down-as-size-goes-up.”. As a matter of fact, given the massive amount of maintenance required by a catenary (your example is a very good one)– the cost of the system goes up, rather than down, as the size of the system increases.

      You simply bring too much common sense to this table. Careful…

  30. The 2020 Duracho says “Hi”. Iowa just got FUCKED, do you know how big Iowa is? We are just a hair under the combined square milage of England and Wales, that much just had the infrastructure totally, as you Brits might say, rinsed. It’s been a week the fiber lines are still shredded on the periphery with power and thousands are without power, even after a week, despite heroic levels of overtime by linesmen, in the areas hardest hit. Your “small battery for last mile” concept really doesn’t hold up when our last mile is your entire journey.
    The Americas are their own continents with their own weather patterns, the United States Midwest especially is the only area at it’s latitude to be both flat and significantly landlocked, shit is actually very different here, we aren’t just West UK with a Boris Johnson pallet swap.

  31. 2020 is the year that Germany told the whole world that it would go fully electric and guess who already implemented electric automobiles even to the largest scale! We have always wanted our mobile billboards to be driven across the Autobahn at speeds in which all are “flying.” Maybe “electrically” as well!

  32. A bit disappointed by some of the comments about HS2 in the piece. It doesn’t just serve London and Birmingham and “over £100 billion” is not a certainty, it’s just within the range of cost estimates for the project.

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