Trucks Could Soon Run On Electrified Highways

Electric vehicles make for cleaner transport. However, they’re hung up by the limited range available from batteries. Long recharge times further compound the issue.

These issues are exacerbated when it comes to trucks hauling heavy goods. More payload means more weight, which means less range, or more batteries, which means less payload. Electric highways promise to solve this issue with the magic of overhead wires.

Power Overhead

Trucks capture energy from the overhead lines via an advanced pantograph that can deal with the rough and tumble of road conditions. Credit: Siemens

The formula for combustion-engined trucks is simple. Simply throw a good-sized engine up front, and add a few big fuel tanks to keep it running. When you run out of fuel, it takes maybe ten minutes to top off and get rolling again.

Electric trucks don’t have this luxury. They need gigantic, heavy battery packs to give them decent usable range. To recharge these packs in a reasonable time, they then need chargers that deliver hundreds of kilowatts of power. It’s all very expensive, and all that battery weight cuts in on payload and adds to wear on things like tires and brakes.

The electric highway concept solves this problem in a remarkably simple way. It uses the same concept as the trolleybus of the 19th century. Overhead wires are strung over one lane of the highway, and provide high-voltage power from the grid. The truck receives power from the overhead wires via a pantograph, much the same as those seen on electric trains and trams.

While the truck is on the highway, it can drive solely using grid power thanks to the overhead wires. The truck then only needs a comparatively smaller battery of a nominal 50-100 km range, allowing it to get on and off the highway. This also allows the truck to change lanes on the highway where needed and operate seamlessly when overhead lines aren’t available.

With their own on-board batteries, the trucks aren’t completely dependent on overhead power. This allows them to merge, overtake, and change lanes as needed. Plus, it means overhead lines don’t need to cross complicated traffic jucntions. Credit: Siemens

Having batteries onboard the truck brings other benefits too. It means that the overhead wires don’t need to be continuous across complex traffic junctions. This greatly simplifies their installation and cuts costs. The batteries can also be charged while the truck is driving along under overhead power.

The idea is to electrify key highway routes linking up major freight depots. Suitably equipped trucks could then deliver goods from depot to depot, running on grid power. This promises to reduce emissions, even where grid power is derived from dirty sources like coal and gas. This is because generating electricity in a giant power plant is far more efficient than running a diesel engine in a truck. Plus, switching to renewable energy sources further cleans up the systemwide emissions.

It’s a plan that allows trucks to be electrified in a straightforward manner. It reduces reliance on big battery packs and high-power chargers. It also eliminates the trouble of building hydrogen refuelling infrastructure for fuel-cell trucks, as well as the issues around producing hydrogen fuel in a clean manner.

It’s expected that overhead power would even be more efficient than solely running battery electric trucks. This is because the electricity from the grid is sent straight to the wheels, eliminating efficiency losses in the charging process. Battery powered trucks score an overall well-to-wheel efficiency of around 62%, and fuel cell trucks come off worse at 29%. In comparison, electric highway trucks are expected to be around 77% efficient based on modelling by the German Ministry of Environment.

It’s a Real Thing

Trucks used in Siemens eHighway concept are hybrid powered, but there’s nothing stopping the concept from going all-electric.

It might sound like a high-strung idea, but working prototypes are already in testing. Siemens Mobility is working on a project it calls the “eHighway,” with overhead wires strung over small sections of highway. Testing is being run with hybrid Scania trucks outfitted to work with the overhead power system.

The key to the project is the special active pantograph, which is capable of dealing with road travel at highway speeds. Sensors and active control of the pantograph ensure it remains in good contact with the wires as the truck moves within the lane. The pantograph can raise and lower from the wires on demand, allowing the truck to pull away and change lanes as needed without disrupting the flow of traffic.

Thus far, the trucks have performed well and in line with expectations. Since 2016, Siemens has tested eHighway trucks in Sweden, Germany, and the US. The project has won the concept fans, too. The Federation of German Industries is recommending that 4,000 km of Autobahn roads are equipped with overhead wires in this way. This figure was chosen because over two-thirds of fuel used by German trucking occurs on just 4,000 km of the 13,000 km highway network.

(Editor’s note: Hackaday’s parent company, Supplyframe, is part of Siemens. Neither of them have any editorial input whatsoever, but the name showed in the article up so we thought we should say something for transparency’s sake.)

179 thoughts on “Trucks Could Soon Run On Electrified Highways

  1. ” It uses the same concept as the trolleybus of the 19th century”
    More accurate: it uses the same concept as the trolleytruck from the 19th century. An old idea, but a good one.

      1. I remember seeing a trolleybus in Arnhem (Netherlands). That must have been, like, 15 minutes ago!

        I think this is a great idea, especially in countries where the cargo traffic is relatively high.

        The investment in the infrastructure will be enormous though. Not just the overhead wires and distribution network, but also in the additional generation capacity required.

        1. Yeah, San Francisco has also has trolleybuses (for a long time). The latest ones, by New Flyer, can also drive off the wire as well, so they can take detours from routes with overhead lines.

          Nice to see the idea applied to other industries.

        2. remember I calculated this when the Siemens system came out about a year back, i know you know this:)

          For the Netherlands, doing every single bit of the motorway network can be wired up with the road tax revenue of 4 years, even with the usual discrepancy between quoted and actual price.

    1. I can’t help but remember the countless videos on YouTube of trucks or their cargo striking overpasses or highway signs. When this happens to the electric cables it will paralyze all trucks on that stretch of highway. Can’t say this concept is a good idea.

      1. On the other hand, the a-hole element can’t keep from destroying infrastructure with carelessness over WELL SIGNED height restrictions and the requirement to put their dumper down after unloading, so maybe electrocuting a few of the idiots will force the coachable ones to pay attention.

      2. Hardly. The trucks will necessarily have batteries within them to make the last leg of journeys. Not every lane of every road could or should be electrified.

        Lower the pantograph, drive around the blockage, raise it again when the wires are available once more.

      3. Good point though.

        Whenever they’re moving wind turbine blades or any other extra-large shipment, they always have to lift power lines above the road to get through. When the power line is going all the way along the road, it’s basically mission impossible.

  2. I absolutely like the technical aspects of that system but I like to remind everybody that there is a established electified system for long range transport. It is called Train!

      1. The article says “The idea is to electrify key highway routes linking up major freight depots. Suitably equipped trucks could then deliver goods from depot to depot, running on grid power”

        This is not for every highway exit lol

        BTW, a name keeps showing up throughout the article, Siemens, a company which does make rail electrification products. Seems like they’re just trying to make more money by selling the same products for use on highways too, but I have a lot of questions. Mostly how is it paid for, because if it is a public good, companies should be footing a majority of the taxes since your average taxpayer will never be able to use these (imagine a 10 foot tall pantograph extending off the roof of a sedan to reach some cables). And if it’s not a public good, you’ll essentially have to pave hundreds or thousands of miles of toll roads in addition to building the overhead cables, to keep companies from stealing the electricity.

        1. The long game for tem would be the diesel/electric drives with changeover equipment since many countries are so vast (thinking the US/Canada/Australia etc.) that long-haul routes wouldn’t be economical but that in-city grids might make sense, particularly around congested freight hubs such as the Port of Los Angeles.

        2. Well, Siemens is in the article, because they have a big chunk of literally everything… You can see Siemens everywhere that has to do anything with the electrical mechanical industry.
          They produce pieces for your car, for your washmachine, for your refrigerator, for your led bulbs, for the machine that built the phone or computer you are reading this, or for the turbines or transformers used into providing you with electricity. The final objective isn’t making more money, but moving the market into something more suitable for the ODS that we wish to accomplish for 2050.
          You might think that is very sweet, but no… If they weren’t doing it, somebody else would be…
          Onto the next question… Well, here in germany the highways are already built… And the tolls are already in place. So the only thing to do would be to install the highway cables, and to accommodate the toll accordingly to the price that it takes to produce the electricity and to maintain the system.
          The system isn’t there for the general public, or not directly… (As the end consumer is the people who are buying groceries or buying a new tv from amazon (for example)), but it is there for the ones that consume the greatest amount of Diesel (on the streets and highway) and use the highways the most

          Also, I don’t know what you mean by “stealing the electricity”? The system has already been in place for at least 5-8years, near me, and I haven’t seen any gipsies trying to connect a cable to the highway cables to power their homes… The same as you don’t hear anywhere in the world from companies stealing electricity to the train company

          1. Germans are rules crazy. How you see the Swiss? That’s how the world sees the both of you.
            If someone visibly hooked up illegal power the Germans would fight each other to see who could rat the person out first.

            They definitely steal electricity in the third world. The pictures of improvised neighborhood distribution are enough to make me cringe.
            Not so much from high voltage catenaries, thought there are some horrific videos from India of roof riders becoming organic catenaries.

            I didn’t understand my German dad, until I visited as an adult. He was relaxed.

      2. This is essentially what Elon Musk is proposing with the Boring Company; exchanging surface gridlock for gridlock at the tunnel exits. But the railroads solved this problem a long time ago, back when factories and other permanent structures were built along rail lines instead of roads. It’s called a “siding.”

    1. The downside to a train is you then have to transfer cargo from the truck that brings it to railyard (if your production/distribution site isn’t directly connected) to the train and then back again to a truck for the last leg from the nearest cargo unloading spot on the railway.

      Along with the limited train lines having no real flexibilty, timetables have to govern when and how you ship, any fallen trees or damaged lines tend to gum the works out hugely as there are no horde of alternative routes these trucks can jump over to freely on the probably fully charged at time of enforced departure from the planed route.

      Not saying you are wrong, as trains are great and can be used to great effect. They are a really efficient way to move vast quantities and masses. What they are not is flexible enough to do everything, or cheap enough to build more infrastructure for – while far from a universally consistent the cost per mile railway vs road suitable for a HGV the road works out far far cheaper rather often.

      1. Rail tends to have a cost disadvantage because in many countries the infrastructure cost and upkeep is no longer socialised. Unlike the road network. Part of the cost is from general tax revenue, part from private motorists and gas taxes, and at a level 1000x times less than the wear they put on it, on the trucking companies. Greenies are all “Roads are bad mmmkay” but unless they are growing absolutely everything they use, saving seeds, not bringing in fertiliser, 100% independant, then they are as addicted to them as everyone else. But it would help make sensible decisions about mass transport and mass transit if all costs were visible instead of hidden. I say trucks do not contribute directly near enough for the wear they put on infrastructure based on the observations that one truck puts as much wear on a road surface as 10,000 cars, and trucks only pay about 10x in taxes that a car does, so that’s still 1000x out of whack. However, food and medicine getting to where it’s needed is a public benefit. If other forms of transportation had the same subsidy though, would they be more economically and environmentally competetive? Perhaps it’s that private motorists pay too much though, on figures I could find a few years ago, the money raised off the back of motorists on the basis of paying for good roads, the adequate maintenance and further development of, only a quarter was actually going to that*, and it was practically funding all public education and public medicine on top. (That’s a shock coming if elecric vehicle use actually tops 20% or so, hidden in the shuffle for now, oh yeah, that gas tax, we weren’t actually using it for what we said…)

        * One thing I saw where it was used, because they put it on a sign, that made me super mad, was when I drove through a rich neighbourhood, and they were getting their dirty grey curb stones replaced with nice bright clean ones…. residential street, should have been covered by property taxes if at all, looked like the least urgent road project on the planet.

        1. > Rail tends to have a cost disadvantage because in many countries the infrastructure cost and upkeep is no longer socialised.

          Not only that, though I agree it is part of it – but a train is only able to take mild inclines and wide turns, is mindboggling heavy compared to the HGV, and generally very long too which means the rail bed has to be more substantially engineered to survive use (and actually be usable at all).

          p.s I agree getting rid of the complex web of financial fiddles to get down to more real world costings would be good.

          p.p.s you sure that those curb stones were not being paid for the by the neighboorhood directly? Even if its government workforce it makes sense budget wise to get the rich to pay with a profit to get a job done and subsidise the basic repair work elsewhere. No idea if that is what was going on of course.

          1. Vehicles are not flexible demand – people have to drive – so the governments can pump the taxes up without fear of losing the source. Cars are a cash cow for governments, while road and infrastructure maintenance is an expense that eats away at the money for new development and the expansion of infrastructure and services – which buys votes – so the effect tends to be that most of the money coming from roads and vehicles gets spent on other “commitments” while the road maintenance gets ignored.

            It’s very common for governments to build and neglect.

    2. Most USA trains are not electrified (or at least the majority of interstate rail system is not). (To my limited knowledge).

      Obviously, every location has its own situations to deal with, but, I think this kind of trucking makes a lot of sense for the USA, even if it was only deployed on the interstate highways.

    3. switching our trains to electric would be ANOTHER step we should take. The VAST MAJORITY of the trains running in America are still chugging diesel.

      1. its not chugging diesel, the engines are there to drive generators that (wait for it) drive electric motors, which is why they can make the dubious claim of “move one ton of freight nearly 500 miles per gallon of fuel”

        besides my argument against all of this wire overhead nonsense is where’s that power coming from? Because here in the USA our power grid is old and fragile, it can barely handle a warm afternoon on a weekend before a substation shits itself. Yea lets plug a few thousand amp train into that

    1. Right. Now extend the railroad network to have the same coverage that the highways have. Oh, wait. That’s new infrastructure – along with the need to get new right of way for the new tracks.

      You could just stick with the existing rails, but then you’ll have to build exchanges to let trucks pick up and drop off loads. Oh, wait. No. that’s mor infracstructure as well.

      It ain’t all simple, folks.

      I’d be more worried about the dual contact pantograph. Easy to drift across a lane and cause a short across both cables.

      1. “You could just stick with the existing rails, but then you’ll have to build exchanges to let trucks pick up and drop off loads. Oh, wait. No. that’s mor infracstructure as well.”

        It’s also worse because you’ve built in a bottleneck: the trains have to load/unload before they can leave, which means your transportation system is now limited speed-wise by the capacity of your load/unload. Yes, you’ve replaced a highway network with one high speed link, but now you need a mega-transportation system around those endpoints for equivalent throughput.

    2. I find it hard to believe that diesel electric locomotives are more efficient and/or less polluting than the electric trucks proposed here. Also, trains won’t get food onto grocery store loading docks, nor goods into local warehouses. There is LOTS of need for more efficient, less carbon-intensive short-and-medium-haul transport that trains on tracks simply can’t meet.

      1. Right. Now take a look a the pie chart in the EPA page (https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions) . And see how much of those emissions you’re getting rid of. Whatever you’re taking away from the transportation slice, you’re putting into the electricity slice.

        So you build infrastructure but didn’t accomplish anything.

        Now, if you build nuclear plants (i prefer them to other means of electricity generations, biggest output for the foot print), but you may use whichever one you prefer) as you build that infra structure, maybe the cost will pay up in the no so immediate future.

        Electrifying anything without adding non fossil fuel generation does absolutely 0 for emissions.

        As for nuclear, the biggest hurdle of all in my opinion, isn’t even the cost of building them, but the “no in my back yard” issue.

        And some will argue it’s worse because no one is thinking of the crap that is generated from solar cell fabrication processes and how to dispose of them later. But that is a different issue, so I digress.

        1. “Electrifying anything without adding non fossil fuel generation does absolutely 0 for emissions.”

          Yeah, you’re setting yourself up for backlash here. It doesn’t do zero – the electrical grid isn’t fully fossil fuel and they’re more efficient overall in terms of CO2/kWh times kWh/mile than cars are at CO2/mile.

          But if you’re a little less aggressive, the argument still holds: electrifying transportation to reduce CO2 has a worse ROI (in terms of $/CO2 reduction) than changing the electrical infrastructure. So it makes no sense for government to dump money (in the form of increased regulations/taxes/tax credits) preferentially to electrifying transportation.

          1. But if you want to make the impact people make it sound like, you need to eliminate the fossil fuel generation. There is no way around that. And a lot of places have nothing but fossil fuel generation.

            It’s like people running out to buy electric cars because they’re better for the environment and don’t bother to look up where their electricity comes from.

          2. The trick is the “without adding” part, because all the renewable sources are non-dispatchable. You can’t increase production of renewable power at will, so adding load on the grid means turning up the existing fossil-fueled reserve utilization.

          3. @Judy. The majority of the people in the world cannot afford 60K electric cars even if they want to make the tiny little bit of a difference. So even if it comes to the moral question of every little bit counts, putting yourself or your family in financial difficulties, does not make the least bit of sense.

            Change the generation infrastructure first and a huge impact it made right away. The very little bit counts can certainly come later.

            Now if you’re rich and can afford to look good in your tesla while your electricity is coming from a coal plant, go for it. No one is trying to stop you.

          4. >It’s like people running out to buy electric cars because they’re better for the environment

            What’s happening in Norway is quite ironic: you have almost new Teslas sitting in the scrap yard because the government is heavily subsidizing their purchase. People who cannot actually afford to own such cars are buying them, and they can’t afford to keep the cars because even simple repairs not covered under the warranty cost thousands of dollars.

          5. >putting yourself or your family in financial difficulties, does not make the least bit of sense.

            It’s a bit of a “let them eat cake” situation, because the people who advocate for electric cars are typically urban upper class kids who do not themselves need to drive cars because their entire lives fit within the limited sphere of public transit – or rich silicon valley nerds who treat cars as toys and not necessities per se. Neither really understands the scope of the problem.

          6. “What’s happening in Norway is quite ironic: you have almost new Teslas sitting in the scrap yard because the government is heavily subsidizing their purchase. People who cannot actually afford to own such cars are buying them, and they can’t afford to keep the cars because even simple repairs not covered under the warranty cost thousands of dollars.”

            Yup, this is exactly my point: goosing EV adoption via government funding has a terrible ROI because the cost/CO2 reduction is terrible. As you’re saying it gets even worse when you consider that the cost for the vehicle itself is so much higher.

            I mean, if you’re dead-set on revamping the private transportation sector for some reason it’d probably make more sense economically to just offer a tax credit on every hybrid/electric battery purchased for either a new or used vehicle. Now suddenly you increase the functional life of those vehicles and the CO2 reduction/dollar goes farther.

            But, y’know. That money wouldn’t go straight to car dealers/manufacturers.

          7. “What’s happening in Norway is quite ironic: you have almost new Teslas sitting in the scrap yard ”

            Citation needed. The photos that were doing the rounds 3 or 4 years back claiming to be a huge Norwegian Tesla scap yard, were in fact the central repair depot for Tesla for the region. i.e. maybe Tesla had issues/recalls affecting a lot of cars then, but the intention was to return most of those to the road fully functioning, so not a scrap yard.

          8. >Citation needed.

            There was a NRK television program recently where Christian Strand challenged people to reduce their waste output. In one part of the program, they visited a scrap yard where they were faced with not only electric cars but hybrids and other subsidized vehicles that were almost brand-new, all less than five years old sitting on the lot.

            Reason being, the government does not collect VAT on these vehicles and they offer other subsidies such as exemption from road tolls and parking fees etc. while the parts and repair are wildly expensive to start with and the government does collect VAT off of that, which in Norway is a lot of money. There’s no third manufacturer parts available for these cars, the OEM spare parts cost way too much, the insurance companies refuse to fund the repairs and the people can’t afford it out of pocket. So, cars with minor problems are just taken out of circulation and scrapped.

          9. You can understand the situation very well especially in the case of Tesla, since they have huge troubles producing enough parts for making new cars, and actually making those cars.

            The second irony is that Norway gets like a third of its trade balance from selling oil, so every subsidized Tesla they import is paid with hundreds if not thousands of barrels of oil.

          10. I saw the program again; the guy running the scrapyard quoted the price of a new replacement trunk lid and spoiler for a Tesla at 29,000 NOK or 2,883 USD plus 25% VAT. A scrapped part would cost 3,900 NOK or $388 plus VAT, but the insurance companies and licensed garages can’t or won’t buy salvaged parts. Using them would void warranty, so it’s only sensible for much older cars.

            They picked a 2016 e-Golf out of the lot with slight body damage, estimated its value at 136,000 NOK and the repair cost using OEM parts at 107,000 NOK. The problem was a dent in the undercarriage extending into the battery cover, which turns out made the entire battery unsafe to use. A completely new battery would run for 280,000 NOK, but they managed to get a salvaged part replaced for 70,480 NOK ($7,008 USD). However, since the replacement battery was taken out of a crashed vehicle, they had to take it in a second time to have it officially inspected for safety. Definitely not a DIY job.

          11. Example of the Norwegian subsidy scheme:

            https://scx2.b-cdn.net/gfx/news/2019/1-electricvehi.jpg

            The EV starts 45% more expensive to import but gets no tax, just a scrapping fee, whereas the regular car gets every possible tax and surcharge, and ends up 14% more expensive than the EV. However, the cost of parts and service still reflect the original price difference at import, so while the EV is slightly cheaper to buy and drive, it’s about 45% more expensive to repair and that’s a significant risk for people who are trying to drive on a budget.

        2. “Electrifying anything without adding non fossil fuel generation does absolutely 0 for emissions.”

          Not sure that’s true. The efficiency of an electric motor is like 2-3X on a combustion motor, computed as energy in / delivered to wheels. Combustion motors simply make a lot of waste heat.

          So this puts the breakeven around 33% to 50% renewables in electricity generation. But b/c power plants are _yet_ more efficient than cars (scale, non-mobile) the real breakeven comes in somewhere like 25% of energy generation from clean sources.

          There are countries in the world where this is already the case, and electric cars are cleaner _right now_. In the rest of the world, if trends continue, they will be cleaner nearly everywhere within the decade.

          Naturally, more non-fossil electric is better, but the hurdle is low due to the relative inefficiency of making small explosions to turn a crank as a means of moving vehicles.

          1. It’s got nothing to do with efficiency, but the fact that you can’t turn up the wind and the sun at will. Adding load on the grid means turning up the fossil-fueled reserve – until you’ve built more renewable power to meet the added consumption.

            So shifting the load to the electric grid does not in itself help anything. It’s slowing down the de-carbonization of the electric grid by adding more demand.

          2. > this puts the breakeven around 33% to 50% renewables

            Instead of thinking in percentages, think in production units. The demand now is 100 units, and 50 units are produced by renewable power. When we add 10 units of demand to the system without adding new renewable production, what portion of the new demand is being met with renewable power?

            None. You didn’t add any supply, so other generators must produce the 10 units.

          3. “It’s slowing down the de-carbonization of the electric grid by adding more demand.”

            I’m not sure I’d go that far: adding demand means you’re putting economic pressure for more supply, and at this point renewables are close enough that new construction’s probably lower carbon than existing infrastructure. So it probably is pushing somewhat.

            But it’s certainly not a smart way to do it, and if your ultimate goal is less carbon pushing for heavy EV adoption makes very little sense before changing the electrical infrastructure. Especially because you can get a good fraction of the way there by goosing the automotive industry correctly.

          4. > So shifting the load to the electric grid does not…

            Not really Dude, these pantograph overhead lines can be turned up and down in their supply potential as can a vast array of other electricity users leveling out the less predictable nature of renewables – all without breaking their functionality. Shifting stuff to a grid especially stuff that either has huge inertia in its function or onboard battery so it can even be entirely without power for prolonged periods allows the grids supply input to be far less than demand at times as long as it averaged out enough in a short enough timescale.

            And with the vast connected grid(s) and things like these trucks moving along them it can actually add yet more ability to transfer energy from where there is vast excess to the spots that are short right now.

            Clearly more investment in renewables and grid level energy storage is needed to really eliminate fossil-fuel peaker plants and continued baseline production, but its not the surefire thing you make it out to be that that more electric users = more demand met by fossil fuels so the grid remains just as carbon intensive. And even if you did meet everything that way the big powerstations are so vastly more efficient at getting the energy out of their burning fuels, and supplied in vastly more efficient ways too that even if the grid remains about the same (which it won’t, as ever more solar etc goes online) the reduction of carbon produced by shipping millions of small parcels of fuel around EVERYWHERE to then burn it in small and comparatively woefully inefficient engines…

          5. >adding demand means you’re putting economic pressure for more supply

            If the supply can meet the demand. Renewable power is non-dispatchable so when the supply is scaled up the new demand cannot be met solely by renewable power. Here instead of focusing on percentages, you have to look at the overall gCO2/MWh of the system, which in countries that utilize a lot of renewable power (Denmark, Germany) is still ridiculously high because of other policy choices.

            >these pantograph overhead lines can be turned up and down

            I don’t think that’s going to happen. You don’t solve the fundamental problem of more demand by cutting off supply to that demand, and it’s going to be an impediment for the adoption of the system if trucks may grind to a halt on the highway because it’s not windy enough.

          6. “EVERYWHERE to then burn it in small and comparatively woefully inefficient engines…”

            This is completely wrong. Modern hybrid engines absolutely hit 80-90% of what the best oil power plants in the world hit. They’re not “comparatively woefully inefficient.”

            And focusing on efficiency’s insane. It’s the absolute number that matters. The *typical* electric vehicle uses around 0.33 kWh/mile, which is around 100 miles/gallon using the pure energy content of gasoline. The *best* oil-fired plants in the world hit 42% efficiency, which is 42 mpg end-to-end. There are *plenty* of vehicles that exceed 42 mpg.

            Literally the only significant way that EVs save carbon is if 1) they goose the market to create more renewables or 2) the carbon emissions at the plant are trapped/restricted more than the vehicle. The efficiency argument makes no sense because we already know how to make cars nearly as efficient as power plants.

          7. Except Pat even if you magically make the lightweight portable ICE as good as the giant static generator at efficiently turning that fuel to useful work that on the road MPG of your road vehicle isn’t even close to whatever it shows up in MPG when you consider it from as far back in the chain as the raw energy sources (as you are doing with electric) – the amount of energy used transporting in tiny drips an drabs via rather inefficient methods to distribute the petrol (and the amount of petrol consumed on the detours to go get more) is mind boggling huge when you actually consider it.

            One giant pipe/train service from the refineries to the big powerstation is orders of magnitude more efficient than than the multitude of little tanker trucks taking fuel around, as is shipping electricity around..

            Then there is the fact car engines are generally more like 20% efficient at best, and most common EV right now are premium SUV type vehicles – the sort that are usually way off the crappiest end in ICE efficiency too, so comparing like to like you talking the things that do 5-15mpg not 40… Hyper efficient EV do exist but ‘typical’ is heavily weighted by almost all of the EV on the market so far being the being for the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ crowd’, those high spec, high performance, luxury boxes of mostly vanity and snobbery…

            You also completely fail to account for there being any green energy in the grid, so even taking your exact numbers as entirely correct that ’42mpg’ on the typical electric will be in the UK right now with something around 20% of energy is consistently renewable, and there is some nuclear thrown in too, so its more like 70mpg, quite possibly even more, as so much of the energy isn’t a petroleum sourced product…

          8. You’ll note I was specifically addressing the claim that engines are less efficient than generators at plants. They’re not significantly worse, and in some cases better.

            They *are* better at CO2 generation. But talking about energy efficiency is just nonsense. Talking about “inefficient engines” is nuts when you’re talking about engines hitting 40% power-to-wheel efficiencies. Engine designers are very smart.

            And again: energy efficiency is the wrong metric. It doesn’t matter if an EV’s motor is 90+% efficient if it’s burning 1 kWh/mile. You care about CO2/person-mile.

          9. >>these pantograph overhead lines can be turned up and down

            >I don’t think that’s going to happen. You don’t solve the fundamental problem of more demand by cutting off supply to that demand, and it’s going to be an impediment for the adoption of the system if trucks may grind to a halt on the highway because it’s not windy enough.

            THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOWN AND OFF! While supply is outstripped by the ‘ideal’ level demand you can turn down lots of things and make no difference to their actual function – so all the trucks on the HV panto line are charging their battery a little less quickly. The heated giant leisure centre swimming pools are allowed to cool a little, which even if you turned the heater off entirely would take likely take days to drop much for the shear thermal mass.

            There is an entire world of power demands that can be massively flexible in their uptake, and can rapidly increase to consume the excess spikes too. Things like this pantograph concept are easy ones to make it happen, as all you need is to specify the trucks can accept x-y range of input and when its lean times drop to x. Even if you only shaved a few watts off each trucks maximum potential when the network is huge, which if this system ever goes widespread it will be that is a huge saving.

        3. “The majority of the people in the world cannot afford 60K electric cars even if they want to make the tiny little bit of a difference. So even if it comes to the moral question of every little bit counts, putting yourself or your family in financial difficulties, does not make the least bit of sense.”

          Yup, this is the kind of garbage I was expecting when I saw a post about alternate energy here.

          There are options at half that price. At the price of a new ICE car or lower. That’s before you find out about the $13-15k used Leaf market. Not to mention the rebates on new cars.

          Your argument is like saying that nobody should buy cars because not everyone can afford a Lamborghini. Just because there are Tesla cars that are 60k or more doesn’t mean all electric cars are that much. Those are just supposedly the luxury ones.

          1. Your comparison with the Lamborghini is a bit ridiculous.

            If there are so many 2nd hand electric cars out there, then why aren’t people buying and using them? I myself live in a community that gets all it’s electricity from renewable sources (or so we’re told by the town). Yet, I can’t use a leaf or a tesla for work. You can’t carry just anything in one of those and I carry things around, a lot, and sometimes I have to leave a lot behind becone one or two items are just too big to fit everything else along.

            Have you seen the price of a new Ford EV truck? $40k bare bones. Great! Cheaper than a tesla, bigger than a leaf. Except I can’t pull up to a charging station whenever I just happen to be and need one. I have to be somewhere that has them close by and one that is not currently being used by someone else.

            My 2011 truck is paid for and I can pull into any gas station anywhere and pull away in 5 minutes. Gas prices are up right now, but with the my use/consumption, it still cheaper to keep on driving the old truck and pay for the gas than getting a car payment (including rebates) and not being able to deliver here or there because I’ll need to juice up before I can guarantee getting there and back in time both ways.

            I’m not against electric vehicles or anything else electric. If they feet YOUR needs, go for it. They don’t fit mine yet. I would love to have an electric truck and be able to pull up and leave with a full charge in 10 minutes, even 30 minutes, if it came to not being able to wait to charge overnight. Fact is, that does not exist yet.

            And the fact that they do not fit the needs of a large number of the population, ICE will be around for a lot longer than people think.

            —-

            I am avoiding the cost of 2nd hand EVs on purpose as as I do not know anything about that, but some around here do mention the high price of fixing them when things go wrong outside the warranty period. You’ll have to have that debate with them.

          2. “That’s before you find out about the $13-15k used Leaf market. Not to mention the rebates on new cars.”

            Leafs (leaves?) aren’t general-purpose vehicles, they’re city vehicles. They have their use but they’re simply not the same as a 400+ mile range vehicle. And the used Leaf vehicles (at that price point) usually have batteries that are already near end-of-life. I’ve honestly seen a Leaf priced at 12k with a battery at 70% SOH. At that point you’re literally talking about a 12k vehicle that almost certainly won’t make it 5 years. The used EV market right now just hasn’t adapted to vehicles that have a huge inbuilt depreciating asset.

            And the (federal) rebates on EVs only actually work for a small subset of consumers, at least in the US. They’re non-refundable, which means for the majority of US households it will net exactly zero dollars.

          3. “I wonder why no one is buying 2nd teslas/leafs then. Why could that be?”

            Oh, they are. That’s the source of all of the articles about people finding out 6 months later their newly-purchased vehicle’s main value is blowing it up on YouTube for the clickz.

          4. Some of you Rural US folks might genuinely need 400mile range pickups, but almost everyone in Europe doesn’t, and I’ll bet the majority of US folks don’t either. And I’ll also bet a large proportion of pollution could be cut by people who can buy them getting EVs.

            BUT, replacing working ICE vehicles with new EVs is probably a bad move, because of the production costs.

          5. “Some of you Rural US folks might genuinely need 400mile range pickups”

            It’s a freaking country that’s 2000+ miles across. If you’re within driving distance of family and a typical family yourself, taking even a few trips per year means it’s economically advantageous to have a vehicle that can hit a few hundred miles.

            Plus over half the US population commutes 10+ miles to work, or 20+ miles round trip. A 400 mile capacity battery is overkill, but a 75 mile capacity battery is way too small for the majority of the US when you derate it to its typical distance over the lifespan of the vehicle.

            “but almost everyone in Europe doesn’t,”

            Europe’s dense enough that they should just be banning personal vehicles in city centers anyway.

          6. >It’s a freaking country that’s 2000+ miles across.

            With 2/3rds of the population living in thin slivers of land on either coast with population densities equal to that of central Europe, and in places exceeding it.

          7. “Your comparison with the Lamborghini is a bit ridiculous.”

            That is exactly how I feel about people saying that all EVs are 60k or more. And people finding every little niche where one wouldn’t work, such as you did, and acting like that is the one and only use-case. It’s a bunch of hogwash.

            Along with people trying to claim that used EVs will have mostly dead batteries. Or any other negative that they imagine.

            There’s a guy on Twitter, Charles_gaba who shows that you can get a brand new Nissan leaf at a cheaper total cost of ownership than a comparable ICE car (Hyundai Elantra). I’d link it but spam filter will probably block me.

          8. “Along with people trying to claim that used EVs will have mostly dead batteries. ”

            Trying to claim?? It’s what the cars are telling you! Do you want me to list what the SOH the Leafs report for all of the ones Carvana lists? 70%, 60%, 70%, 50% (under 40 miles range!).

            It’s right there, in the display. What do you consider a battery that’s got half it’s original capacity? Alive?

        4. I looked at the pie chart and it says nothing about the relative efficiencies of fossil-to-grid-to-batteries-to-motion and fossil-to-internal-combustion-to-motion. I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just not convinced yet.

          As for nuclear, I agree – especially if we put our money and effort behind Thorium Molten Salt Reactors. Not only are these more efficient, and safer in the short term, the half-life of the waste they produce is humongously less than that of current reactors. Thorium reactors can even ‘burn’ some of the nuclear waste we’re currently stockpiling, rendering it less deadly.

          1. Thorium Molten Salt Reactors. Now you’re speaking my language.

            The bit about the chart was that emissions from regular people driving around is very small compare to the entire slice of the pi that has all daily drivers bunched into the same slice as the overall transportation slice.

            If you take 2% of daily drivers, meaning those that do not need to drive for work, they only driving themselves to/from work, and make them all electric EV drivers, then that 2% just moves into the power generation slice. And that means a small impact because the transportation slice is pretty much unchanged.

            The bigger bang for the buck is to convert power generation from fossil fuel to nuclear fuel. That is a big slice of the char that you can virtually eliminate while it still takes time to get rid of fossil fuel for the actual transportation that is responsible for almost all of the transportation slice of that pie chart.

            The other big consumer of power is air conditioning when it’s hot and heating when it’s cold.

            Again, take the big chunk of power generation and make it nuclear and virtually all the emissions from heating and cooling disappear.

            We can make a huge number of innovations when it comes to isolating indoors from the weather outdoors, but you can’t really take and old house and make it efficient without spending a ton of money. But you could replace old ad/heating units with ease and a lot cheaper than major renovation for these older places.

            Here’s a nice little video that goes into why some of the EV talk are not much more than pipe dreams, at least until

            1) There is adequate infrastructure for everyone in a large neighborhood to charge an EV (which does not exist today)
            2) Charge times go from hours and hours to, at the very least, 1 hour or less for a full charge.

        5. A few years ago I popped into a Tesla dealers in the UK and they quoted me £2000 for a service. I thought WTAF? No DIY option either.

          They also point blank refused to quote me how much for a replacement battery pack.

          So I can believe the scrapyard story.

          1. Tesla really scares me given that they’re so far in the lead in the EV option. They’re quite obviously perfectly capable of doing total vendor lock-in with the battery pack, because they can just lock you out from using the Supercharger network and they’d have an absolutely 100% justifiable reason (fire risk).

      2. By what metric and at what point are you measuring them? In the most direct and narrow of comparison of volume/mass hauled over distance the diesel electric locomotive is almost certainly better – those things have rather large and more efficiently run combustion engines than the road vehicles (not up to fossil fuel power stations still, but less awful in comparision) and can carry some pretty good exhaust cleanup too as they have so much less volume and mass concerns, all while carrying many many HGV trucks worth of goods.

        By metric of consumption to move a teddy bear that mile the train just hauling itself vs the crew cab with no trailer…

        Once you start trying to be real world and factoring in the whole combined source to destination for varied loads it becomes very much harder to figure out a good generalisation.
        For really short journey the electric truck without the pantograph even is almost certainly the winner, unless you are building a dedicated rail link between the factory (and then those are likely to be electric, as its so short there really isn’t much point being anything else), once you get up to really really long overland its likely rail with short distances of truck at either end, and for everything in the middle the direct truck route vs the efficiency gains of rails that likely don’t run so directly between A and B.

    3. But isn’t there some value in the “train” being able to ship door-to-door? On those “rail trains”, the load has to go from factory (usually by truck) to the train, and then on the other side, from the train (usually by truck) to the destination. Don’t those intermediate truck steps add some amount of cost and time (and since time is money, it’s just more cost)?

      1. There’s “road trains” where it behaves like…but isn’t. Clearly people want to put the “mass” in mass transit without the sacrifices involved. Like giving up the ability to wreck in dust and fog conditions.

    4. Lol. Our infrastructure is doomed—people need to take a page from the preppers and get some backup plans ready, because the next few years are going to get very scary. Empires which do this kind of thing do not have 100 more years left on the tires.

    5. In the North American context, rail is only half built. In order for full utilisation of the rights of way currently allocated, things need to happen like building tunnels, bridges and sturdier track beds for higher speed.

      In Europe, level crossings are fairly uncommon and don’t happen much in the middle of cities, the cities were there, and the rail went through, under, around them or had bridges built where it cut major routes. Rail in NA was early compared to urbanisation and there was not the same thought applied to integrating it into cities. Level crossings are the norm, road bridges over it or tunnels under it are rare. This makes not for just “boohoo I have to wait to get my groceries” but it brings many cities to a complete and total halt when a long freight train is rumbling through at only a few miles an hour. No emergency services can get through, ambulance, fire, police, all have to wait 20 minutes for the train to clear. Many cities are campaigning to have the rail lines through their neighbourhoods torn out, because even two trains a day is too much disruption to the rest of the city now. A city local to me wanted to fix a particularly bad rail logjam on a particularly busy arterial, but some dumbass nimbys got upset they’d have to drive a few hundred yards further to get out of their neighbourhoods due to the lengths of the ramps needed for the bridge.

      Therefore, rail isn’t an answer in North America until it is more or less “redone from scratch” as regards road and rail intersections, and millions of miles of track are relaid to cope with decent transit speeds.

      One other stupid problem that afflicts rail utilisation in my area, not sure how widespread a problem it is, is that they had some fairly wide rights of way….. soooo, they let the power companies go along it too. Great for potential electrification you say, but wait a minute…. it means that only half the land near both the track and the city is suitable for offloading, because there’s frigging power lines in the way one side. Sometimes both sides, the rail has been corralled in, and due to multiple authorities and interests being involved, it’s very hard to fix.

        1. This one is moving quite fast for freight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHfX1hRgV64 you’d only see them going about that fast some way out of town. Near cities they get stopped for passenger trains or other traffic (Because of course the towns are near or around the rail intersections too), adding or dropping cars to nearby commercial “switching yards” (sidings) so they’re typically going walking to jogging pace and taking 3 or 4 times as long to clear. Then the road traffic takes a few minutes to get moving again. Meanwhile, every town a single train goes through, several hundred gallons of gas get used up just from vehicles idling. Probably a swimming pool worth of wasted gas one day in one province, which is a dozen more road or half doz rail tankers needed to replace.

        2. American freight rail is better than Europe’s. Pick you metric. Cost per ton/km is a good place to start.

          Because rail is mostly on the ground you can optimize for freight of passenger, but not both.

      1. Did you not see that Swiss underground system, essentially a narrow gauge automated underground for parcels? The future is soonish, but maybe won’t be able to carry massive stuff. We could use freight trams for big stuff like wardrobes

    6. Not necessarily less efficient. If such trucks have batteries and use them for last-mile delivery, but for the bulk of their route they use overhead wires, it’ll require less reloading (good word? transfer between one or another vehicle) than trains.

  3. There could be something to this. There will be challenges with the pantograph system and not snagging up during lane changes however:

    • The infrastructure could be added as part of an overall national grid upgrade.
    • If the trucks have onboard batteries, then the overhead power doesn’t have to be continuous to be effective. You could start with alternating segments of say, 30 miles on, 30 miles off on the interstates.
    • You could add battery charging parking lanes at public rest-stops and truck stops.

    1. Alternating charging for 30 min and running for 30 min will drain most electric cars. This truck is probably much much less efficient. More like 6 hours of electrified highway following six minutes of running.

      1. I disagree. A typical Tesla car can fast charge in about an hour to go several hundred miles. An overhead power feed at 2-4kilovolts would be able to power a truck and charge the batteries at the same time.

        1. And everyone can afford to have one right? And everyone can also afford the cost of fixing them when the warrantee goes out, right?

          Now how many neighborhoods do you know that can charge everyone’s tesla’s all at the same time, not only reffering to needed grid to support the demand, but also the room for all those chargers to be used at the same time when people go to sleep (or do you want people to wake up in the middle of the night so they can go unplug their car so their neighbor can plug theirs in?)

      2. Acceleration is the big power drainer, running along at a constant speed uses a lot less power. If it’s designed to have enough power to get the truck up to speed from a dead stop, then at cruising speed it will likely be sending a quarter to the motor and three quarters to the battery.

        1. And to be honest while it’s all eco-friendly PR nicey to say “all-electric” a hybrid’s also not a terrible design. If you need to use fuel for like, a short bit at the beginning/end it’s still a massive emissions savings. Plus being hybrid allows you to start getting emissions reductions immediately as you electrify each section. You lose a little on efficiency due to hauling the extra weight of the engine/tank, but that’s probably not a huge hit.

          1. It’s kinda backwards to the way you want to design hybrids the way you say it though. Ideally the battery would be big enough to exit and enter urbanised areas. 20 miles say, before having to start the IC. However, on highway and major routes that are unelectrified, it’s then that you want the IC running. As steady output is where you can tune them for best efficiency, and utilise charging load to keep them at best efficiency when traction demand drops. Best way to describe it, is there’s a loading area of IC engines that is “bulk buy discount” but above that, it’s like market cornering where every additional watt is high priced, and below it is single unit pricing. Keep it in the bulk buy discount zone and you’re getting 40% of the energy out of every gram of fuel to the road, below and above it can be as bad as 15%… However, “to the road” is more like overcoming friction, where at 60mph+ aero friction dominates. Therefore the argument “I need to go 80mph to hit 90% torque peak for best engine efficiency” falls down as a method to achieve overall efficiency because at 80mph it’s 90% wasted fighting drag.

          2. Oh, I totally agree it’s backwards from an efficiency standpoint – but don’t think about it like that. Think about it as CO2 reduction per dollar spent. With a hybrid design you start banking CO2 the instant any section of road becomes electrified, whereas with an all-electric design you need a critical mass of road before any vehicle can use it.

            Yeah, from an efficiency standpoint you’d want it the other way (assuming the electricity comes from a standard fossil mix anyway). But that would require a *lot* more infrastructure so the ROI’s lower.

          3. I should also point out your argument kinda fails for full hybrids anyway (which is what you’d obviously want here) because they can just run the engine to charge the battery, holding it at peak torque (max efficiency). Requires a bit of a different design in the system but nothing new.

          4. I believe that’s the approach with motor/genny in the transaxle, it can either be taking or making power, or just letting it go straight through.

  4. What? Pantographs on trucks? Seriously?

    The trucks thus equipped still need an additional propulsion method to move around the city. As AKA the A hints, this is stripping trucks of their numerous advantages over trains AND require brand new infrastructure. Trucks go everywhere, trains go only where the tracks are laid.

    Of course the “who’s going to pay for the electricity” question is non-trivial.

    If you can justify building an electrified lane between, say, Dallas and Houston, you need to take a second look at increasing train capacity between the two cities it will be cheaper & more efficient, not to mention more ‘environmentally-friendly’.

    1. “The trucks thus equipped still need an additional propulsion method to move around the city.”

      Yeah, that’s why the article talks about having batteries on board. Or just a hybrid design, there’s not a huge reason to totally get rid of diesel. If you cut fuel consumption by like 90% the remaining 10%’s a waste of effort. Although you could argue that once you get off the highway you’re in populated areas so you need to get rid of the particulates, which is reasonable.

      “you need to take a second look at increasing train capacity”

      Trains are just totally different logistics. It’s like saying you don’t need anything other than major highways or that UPS/FedEx/etc. should just get rid of their delivery trucks and people can just pick up packages at their hubs.

      Not saying trains don’t have benefits or they shouldn’t be increased, it’s just different logistics.

    2. Don’t forget some trucks are exclusively used to haul things from A to B and will never show up in the city. This electrical road is specifically designed with such a use case in mind.

      There is one large container / train terminal where ships and trains are unloaded. Trucks will then further distribute this to multiple distant warehouses. Those “distribution roads” are the primary target for these trucks and these are also where the previous tests where done.

  5. The roads must roll!

    In the 1964 New York World’s Fair, one pavillion showed a futuristic highway. There was automation, the cars controlled, but I can’t remember, or was too young to notice, if they foresaw a leap away from gas.

  6. “The key to the project is the special active pantograph…” Then, the project is very, very small in scope. Already mentioned is the expanded road infrastructure, electrical infrastructure, plus questions like who pays for the electricity. There’s maintenance (pantographs and the overhead cables endure LOTS of friction over time). What happens when one or more of the lines inevitably comes down on a busy road? What is necessary to ensure that the truck owners/operators maintain their equipment?

  7. What if there’s a car crash and it causes the power lines to fall on me sitting in small car? Doesn’t sound really good… You can choose if you burn alive in your car or run away from the fire and get electrocuted… Not very tempting.

    1. Well just like when you’re struck by lightning in a car, it travels around the shell looking for ground, i.e. faraday cage effect. Might want to be more careful around these in a convertable with the top down though…

      1. car crash or falling pole can turn any car into the convertible immediately. will just pierce through like tuna can opener. also imagine your car tank is on fire due to crash (unrelated to electric), the powerline lays on your roof, it’s raining and you have to get out. Where is your faraday cage now?

      2. A car is not actually much of a faraday cage – otherwise you couldn’t make a phone call out of one.

        It’s just that most of the lightning will pass through the wet outer surface of the car, so your chances of surviving a direct strike are better than if you were out there in the rain yourself. Part of the current may and probably will still jump from e.g. the door to your arm and through your leg to the floor as the lightning takes all available paths in proportion to their relative impedances.

  8. Wow! So many issues to resolve, not the least of which is who pays, especially if this experiment fails. When my family moved from St Paul MN to Kansas City MO back in 1956, street cars ran on our street (in the downtown slum), but by 1957 they disappeared and were replaced by buses. And now KC is doing it again. I now have to pay a 5% surcharge on my property tax for a street car planned for 2027, probably about the time I leave this plane of existence, all because I live within a half mile of the route (only residential taxes increased, businesses did not!). Oh, and “it’s free” for riders (but not taxpayers). Win, win?

    And the article’s short statement that “coal” produced electricity has a smaller carbon footprint than existing truck operations: what about scrubbing costs for particulate pollution, not to mention the plethora of heavy metals that must be prevented from entering the atmosphere and the problem with strip mining? Sounds like the politicians utopia messages are working and then they’ll line their pockets with lobbyist cash while the nascent industries line their pockets with taxpayer cash until the projects tank and they walk away rich.

    Come on! We’re not “that” dumb, or are we?

  9. This could be huge for high mountain passes where captured energy from trucks heading downhill helps cover the heavy load of ascending cargo. I think there are high altitude mines that switched to electric trucks and achieved net positive energy, the energy captured from heavily laden trucks going down exceeds the energy cost of returning the lighter empty trucks.

  10. Electric trucks don’t have this luxury….

    That’s a funny way of saying they cannot do that. Like, it’s not a shortcoming of the electric cars, something else must be denying electric cars this “luxury” we give to engines.

    Kinda comes across as try hard and manipulative.

  11. Instead of having to build new infrastructure, with the need for new trucks also, why not transport the whatever-fueled trucks *in* the trains ? Then one gets the benefits from the established railroads, while also easing the transfer of cargo to trucks.

    1. “why not transport the whatever-fueled trucks *in* the trains ?”

      Ha, I literally was going to mention that above. Have you ever seen the load/unload times of island ferries and how ungodly long the lines get? That’s the issue – you end up creating this *massive* bottleneck. Yeah, you could do a gigantic parallel load and unload, but in the end that means you’re going to need to tremendously oversize the roadways to handle just a gigantic peak load compared to the typical.

      It’d be an interesting simulation, though! Obviously very small trains don’t help (in the limit of 1 truck/train it’s pointless, obviously) and very large trains run into the problem I mentioned above regarding load/unload times.

      Highway throughput for trucks is fairly ridiculous – literally tens of thousands per day on interstates in the US.

      1. That’s exactly what the Eurotunnel does, each carriage loads/unloads independently – they don’t need to follow each other through the train to only unload at the bottlenecked end.

        1. Yeah, and if you look at the typical travel time through the Eurotunnel load/unload is roughly the equivalent of the transit time. Like I said, it’d be an interesting simulation. I don’t know if you could parallelize the load/unload to make it fast enough: the Eurotunnels are like 10k vehicles/day throughput, but they’re effectively very slow.

          Probably would work for longer-haul links in the US. Shorter ones not likely.

    2. They used to call that “piggybacking” – loading a standard truck trailer on a flat car. It’s been replaced by containers, since the wheels and undercarriage are just dead weight.

      Neither method is very useful for LTL shipments, which are the single biggest reason why railways will never replace trucks entirely.

  12. For those suggesting Trains as an alternative, there are several differences.

    You have to stop the entire train to add or remove anything from the load and then restart it. During the load / unload process, nothing is moving.

    You must transfer each load from a truck to the rail hub and then transfer off again to get it from the rail hub to its destination. Again, lot’s of logistics, scheduling, coordinating and waiting

    Trains have their place but they are more similar to a cargo ship in the waiting for the load / unload process.

      1. Most national railways here are struggling to operate with profit. They do “well” because they keep throwing taxpayer money at it.

        The biggest logistics issue is that using the train often adds to the miles you have to transport because half the time you’re closer to the destination by road than by train and it would be faster to just drive there.

  13. I would think it would be quite dangerous to have power lines over the entire length of a highway…. Unless it was a separate ‘highway’ just for the trucks (like train right-of-ways)… even then…. There are over passes, bridges, corners all to deal with…. Doesn’t seem all that practical for the ‘expense’ someone would have to incur … and then safely maintain.

    Speaking of practical, saw an article where parents bought a used electric vehicle for their daughter for $11K. Only had 60,000 miles on it. Batteries died within six months. Found out batteries cost $14K more than car was worth… Kicker is the battery was discontinued so now they have a 11K boat anchor…. And what do you do with e-car when it has to be turned out to pasture so to speak? Any normal car, you could drop a new motor in, or replace the valves, or send to junk yard …. Not an electric I suspect. Food for thought.

    1. Nothing stops you from rebuilding an electric – its much like a ICE drive train swap a very involved process.

      If you can’t get an identical spec replacement some creativity is required, which you see all the time in ICE powered vehicles too. But that creativity doesn’t need to be all that great – the same kits that are used to electrify classic cars with the smaller more distributeable, squeeze in a few here and there style battery packs are a pretty much directly off the shelf replacement option…

      The only reason its not being commonly done yet is that failed and EOL EV are still really damn rare, as EV’s are generally still far to new for the market to really exist. And with the rapid surge in new EV’s battery are in higher demand the market hasn’t really finished accommodating to make it cheap and easy.

      In a few years time as lots of ‘worthless boat anchor’ EV start appearing folks will tool up to put the otherwise perfectly serviceable machines back in action. For the more popular models I’d not be shocked to find 3rd party battery if the manufacturer doesn’t sell replacements – ultimately an EV battery isn’t that hard, its just larger than most 3rd party battery.

          1. “Lithium technology is changing to address their “boom” capability.”

            Looong way off.

            “Not like people don’t need to respect the handling of gas or diesel.”

            You can run a gas engine with tiny amounts of fuel if you’re worried. Can’t do the same with a battery pack – charged or uncharged, it’s dangerous.

          2. If you are worried about something Pat you can run the EV ‘on the bench’ with no battery at all, proper handling of volatile fuels is only not thought about as a major risk because we have had decades of work at making it almost impossible to handle it badly without deliberate intent.

            Only have to look at how often something like a gas explosion or fire happens in a house, reasonable common really but nobody is paranoid about gas powered homes as its been part of the furniture for far too long and the results are rarely that bad as everything is supposed to be designed to prevent such things.

            Handling lithium battery is no different in that sense, give it 20 years of being common and nobody will bat an eye at the dangers – heck if you were that concerned on the dangers of electric the mains electrical setups of the world at large need major revamping…

          3. “If you are worried about something Pat you can run the EV ‘on the bench’ with no battery at all,”

            You’re talking about rebuilding the battery, not the drive train! You can work on a car engine with zero risk. You literally cannot work on existing lithium ion battery packs without fire risk. You can barely work on the *vehicle* without fire risk. Leafs, for instance, flat out carry warnings to only be *painted* in approved facilities because heat can cause battery damage and present a possible fire risk.

            Let me state this again: the EV manufacturer flat out says that *painting the car* might be dangerous.

            “Handling lithium battery is no different in that sense, give it 20 years of being common and nobody will bat an eye at the dangers”

            It *has* had 20 years of being common! I blew up my first lithium-ion battery back in the early 2000s!

          4. And its had a whole 5 mins of being common for a car… If you can even call it common rather than niche now. The odd Lithium cell in portable electronics is a rather different thing – any working on those isn’t being done by car mechanics with the garage full of heavy lifting tools…

            All the risks and safe disposal practices associated with fossil fuels have had well over 100 years of being developed and deployed. Its so common you just don’t consider the risks involved, till something goes wrong, like the recent gas explosion near here destroying a few homes. But even then its so rare with standard working practice all ingrained and designed to work in ways that are efficient and safe. So you forget about it again if it didn’t hurt you personally… Working with EV battery pack will end up just the same, once every garage has some practice under their belts and the old timers have built up the institutional knowledge with all the fun stories of ol’ bert who didn’t take this or that safety seriously and did x.

          5. “Working with EV battery pack will end up just the same, once every garage has some practice under their belts and the old timers have built up the institutional knowledge with all the fun stories of ol’ bert who didn’t take this or that safety seriously and did x.”

            The problem is that until you standardize the pack design and geometries, you won’t have to have 1 procedure. You’ll have to have like 50 of them. That’s why it won’t happen. It’ll only happen unless manufacturers *allow* it to happen. Everyone knows how to work with gas because it’s always gas.

            And manufacturers won’t want to standardize the pack design. It doesn’t help them. They want to encourage new sales, not old battery sales.

            I’m even doubtful that it’d happen in that case, because current EVs are so ludicrously bleeding edge. The amount of effort you have to go through to be able to dump 250 kW of electricity into cells and not have them explode or die immediately is nuts. There’s just no margin.

          6. Pat for most of internal combustion engines life it had nothing resembling standards either, arguably still doesn’t. Though with how interbred the brands are now, and so much refinement there is more commonality then there has been historically. In the same way early steam engines worked in the most daft fashions imaginable, working your way through many varieties of motion and boiler mechanisms towards the two main methods at the end of the age of steam, that are rather more universal and refined, so despite all the engines being largely hand built, so very different in size, shape and orientation the way its constructed and mechanisms if functions by become second nature to the maintenance engineers.

            If you know how to work with HV and lithium chemistry batteries safely you know how to work with them safely, enough to then do as you do with any ICE trouble now and work around the varietions of this particular vehicle is a supercharged, turbocharged, old lump with timing chain and carbs, or alternatively entirely electronic in engine management, with high pressure fuel injection – there is a serious external combustion/explosion risk right there if you mess around and get those wrong.

            And I’d argue ultimately EV battery are much simpler conceptually there are some conductors you don’t want to short, and a (collection) of case(s) full of cells to remove – the at the garage part is pretty damn trivial in complexity and dangers, as the cells are in their little armored boxes that have to survive the road. Very much the same as the strip down of the ICE. The specalist task of refurbish/recycle the cells would like any engine rebuild go the specialists, with the right tools – for ICE its mostly high precision specialized machine tools to shave down the surfaces to a good finish again, and cut out worn valve seats for new inserts, remake the knackered crank etc. The same thing will happen for EV – ideally the cars battery packs wouldn’t be bonded together the way they currently seem to tend towards, but still the same deal right tools and people for the job.

          7. “Just because it’s new tech and people are scared of it doesn’t mean it’s actually hard.”

            Yah, circa 1995 panic “OBD-II is new world order end of the world crap, nobody can fix a car any more, you have to get the dealer to do anything”

            Present day, “Meh, just get a $10 bluetooth dongle and read the codes, or reset fault on your phone.”

          8. “If you know how to work with HV and lithium chemistry batteries safely you know how to work with them safely,”

            This just isn’t true. I don’t know how to explain this more.

            It’s not about the cells. It’s about the charge/motor controller. It expects certain behavior. It expects certain tolerances between cell voltages. It expects certain charge/discharge curves. It expects certain sensor behavior. If it doesn’t see what it expects, it freaks out and throws a code. In many cases it just won’t run anymore. That’s how they stay “safe” – for reasonable levels of safe. And they’re *all different*.

            This is why some pack rebuilders actually end up *faking* readings to the charge controller, because they’re replacing the pack with different technology. With small hybrid batteries, this isn’t really a concern: they’re not serious fire risks anyway (in comparison). With larger EV batteries it’s an entirely different ball game.

            If this sounds like a DRM-type game between car manufacturers and rebuilders, it should. Because it is. Except unlike printer ink cartridges, where the manufacturer can only try to say “we’re trying to protect the printer that you own by not letting you use it how you want!” (which was a loser in court) – car manufacturers have a *winning* court argument.

            They just say hey, we *have* to lock out these batteries because we can’t guarantee they’re safe, and that’s a fire risk for everyone. This *already* happens. Salvaged Tesla vehicles are locked out from fast charging. Period. Forever. Kaput. Gone. No way to fix.

            You keep comparing EV vehicles to ICE vehicles because it’s “early days” for EV and “early days for ICE” was in the early 1900s. You keep saying “look everything was awful then, and it’s great now!” There’s one huge difference: this isn’t the 1900s. And these companies aren’t small.

            Car manufacturers have been trying for years to cut the life of a vehicle short. They’ve flat-out said this. Sloan has an entire biography about it! EVs literally give them a way to finally do it. Period.

            It took legal action to deal with printer cartridges. *Printer cartridges!!* It’s going to take legal action to keep large-scale pack rebuilding practical, and it will be a *much* harder legal fight, because car manufacturers are much, much bigger companies.

            And that’s because of what you’re saying: you think “oh, anyone can learn how to work with EV batteries safely.” No, they can’t. A car manufacturer can push an OTA or recalled update *for legitimate safety concerns* which will detect “different” batteries and lock them out. So what if it locks out a few of theirs? Customer comes in, they swap it, no harm done. But an entire alternate industry goes “poof.”

            As long as the EV charge/motor controller is unregulated/unstandardized and under the control of the car manufacturer, there’s no way you can say “oh, eventually anyone will be able to rebuild packs.” Maybe they *could*. It’s theoretically possible. But they won’t be *allowed* to.

          9. Pat size of company has nothing to do with the technology being ready or the economic situation making it profitable! Yes any lawsuits that may happen will be a bitch with so much money behind them, however lawsuit or not there really isn’t anything the car company can do to really prevent it happening.

            Just make it awkward at most – OTA to selectively brick a clone really won’t work – as the whole damn point is its reverse engineered (or a re-manufacturing of a damaged one), its in effect identical to the genuine ones. And no DRM system will survive contact with the crackers when there is so much interest in breaking it, which there will be. Unless I suppose the maker actually supplies replacements at a sane cost.

            And anybody can work on an EV battery safely if they know how, the very worst outcome for somebody who knows what they are doing upon meeting an unfamiliar battery pack and stripping it down is something along the lines of finding they need to reflash the BMS as the power to it was interrupted or replace it as well as the dud cells… So maybe they need to crack open another few of that battery to really master it, but there isn’t a shortage of them as the batteries will all start wearing out around the same time..

            And ultimately ALMOST NOBODY will actually be dealing with the cells level anyway – its take out black box of the whole old battery unit(s), send/sell to the fixers, put in the black box of new battery. Doesn’t matter to the car, the owner or the general car mechanic doing the work what the battery chemistry is, or any of the more tricky battery details as long as its a fit for purpose replacement – that is the job for specialist. In the same way you don’t grind new valve seats or line the cylinder yourself – its the job for the specialist, with all the tools. What you/your garage does is strip it down and send off for fixing or just outright replace the parts.

            As RW ver 0.0.3 says:

            ‘“Just because it’s new tech and people are scared of it doesn’t mean it’s actually hard.”

            Yah, circa 1995 panic “OBD-II is new world order end of the world crap, nobody can fix a car any more, you have to get the dealer to do anything”

            Present day, “Meh, just get a $10 bluetooth dongle and read the codes, or reset fault on your phone.”’

          10. “as the whole damn point is its reverse engineered (or a re-manufacturing of a damaged one), its in effect identical to the genuine ones.”

            Yes, and what I’ve been saying is that is totally and completely possible for car manufacturers to make that *impossible*.

            Again! Tesla already has! Bam, smashed Tesla. Salvage title? Literally no way to replace the battery to get the car back to factory condition. None. Zero. Zip.

            Let’s see – is there another way they can lock people out? Sure! Create a new cell geometry. Detecting cell geometry in the charge controller isn’t actually that hard – you just watch the charge/discharge cycle and the progression of capacity and loss of capacity over time and cycle. Maybe also the temperature profiles. Now prevent your cell geometry from being manufactured or sold anywhere else.

            Now – again – you’ve got a fundamentally unreplicatable battery pack, protected for 20 years by patent law. At which point you switch to some new geometry for some other bullcrap benefit, and lather, rinse, repeat. This. Is. Already. Happening.

            You keep thinking that because there will be this huge market that it’ll have to happen. It really doesn’t. It’s trivial to short-circuit it. Tesla has *already* been doing it. The only thing they have to do is add enough inconveniences and difficulties and risks so people choose to go back to them to trade in for a new vehicle.

            I do really hope you’re right. It’s almost certainly not going to happen with Tesla – that’s obvious. Some of the other car manufacturers are less interested in “total vendor lock in,” so maybe they end up standardizing. But the problem is that Tesla has such *massive* market forcing right now that what I see is about 20 years of a total disaster of a mess and then enough customer backlash to force legal action.

          11. Pat whatever smarts are monitoring the battery that are not built into the battery itself can likely be reprogrammed or rechiped/replaced if its really needed or more convenient, but odds are good it can’t know anything at all about the real state of the battery if the battery is telling it everything is ‘normal’ – might be reporting complete BS, to the real state, but that matters not at all.

            Even if you end up having to rip out a little bit of electronics that SHOULD be good for such daft reasons its not like the entire car or even most of it is one monolithic PCB entirely encapsulated in impenetrable goo to be impossible to work on.

            It is going to be like all modern vehicles some degree of smarts everywhere, with many separate computing layers for the hard realtime requirements and the less sensitive general stuff like the infotainment crap. All connected via heaps of wire – you can snip and work on them to your hearts content, and with the huge residual value the steel box with wheels and motor in good condition has, that is only going to get higher when ICE gets ever more marginalized figuring out how to make it work will happen no matter how obnoxious ‘Tesla’ or the like may choose to be – infact the more obnoxious they are about vendor lock-in battery price gouges the more its likely to happen faster and at greater scale.

            And so far being locked out of a fast charging option is the worst you have to point to. Which really isn’t relevant or that important to it being a useful vehicle, as most EV’s don’t visit the super expensive fast chargers much if at all – the range in even the smaller models is rather more than most folks need, and even a domestic socket can charge up most folks daily use overnight… Still a perfectly good vehicle without Tesla fast charging, and to get any vehicle at the refurbished good price such a minor potential inconvenience is a trade off most folks will be perfectly happy with anyway!

        1. Reply to foldi-one: The Prius was introduced in 1997 and the volt in 2005 and the tesla roadster in 2009. I will bet my bottom dollar that not many of the original cars are left on the road. And the cost to swap a battery pack vs aan ICE is huuuge. Replaced the engine in a toyota Corrola for USD $4500.00. My sister sold her prius when it neede a new battery. Battery cost USD $6500.00 and had to be done by the dealer.

          1. And there are earlier EV still (Leadacid ones certainly existed), but those earliest EV models are both bound to be hit by the inevitable early adopter tax AND never sold in particularly great numbers – so the replacement batteries are a niche replacement part, and require ‘niche’ garage tools (at least niche for car mechanics). All for a market that is only just about now ceasing to be considered a niche in EV’s in general, making the second hand refurbished market almost non-existantly niche. (Also right now demand for batteries is super high, and the biggest profits are not going to be trying to pry lithium out of the Phone/laptop makers or European Auto brands and Elon’s hands to make new battery for the older car – but more battery production and more durable battery are on the horizon for quite some time to come, so it should happen eventually – I’d think the current crop of Tesla’s and the more popular higher end EU Brand EV are likely to be on the road perhaps longer than the average age of ICE cars now, certainly likely to get a battery swap in their lifetime, but the older models may end up more abandoned as they are just not popular enough to make the rebuild as economical)

            Also that cost differential to me doesn’t seem bad, its alot of money no doubt about it. But its a Car, they are always somewhat expensive, and its a bit of niche car that most mechanics are not qualified to work on (yet anyway) vs one of the most common which again should make the battery swap cost more…

            Factor in all the years of much much cheaper (or even being paid to charge up – it happens) motoring the EV gives you, I’d say its still great value for money in comparison. Perhaps not the most fair comparison as with proper care the ICE shouldn’t need to be fully replaced, basically forever. It should be just lots of garage fees or time on an ongoing basis with heaps of usually reasonably cheap parts eaten, where eventually the EV battery will need replacing no matter how much you care for it. Still perhaps the ICE is more expensive to maintain over the batteries lifespan, or you don’t do enough miles for the cost per mile saving to easily offset the pricey part – but so varied you can’t state conclusively it will always be so for everyone.

          2. re: “cost to swap a battery pack vs an ICE is huuuge”

            Speaking as someone who does both, swapping a Prius or EV battery is trivial compared to swapping an engine. Just because it’s new tech and people are scared of it doesn’t mean it’s actually hard.

            Salvage battery packs are quite cheap and there’s absolutely nothing about swapping one that requires a dealer.

          3. “swapping a Prius or EV battery is trivial compared to swapping an engine.”

            Swapping an EV battery *can* be easy, rebuilding it is ludicrously hard, dangerous, and intrinsically expensive. 100 kWh is going to cost you over $10k in cell costs, period, and that’d be with zero markup. Rebuliding an engine is difficult (but easier than rebuilding a battery), but not *intrinsically* expensive. At least not at the $10K level. The majority of the cost is in labor, and that’s a huge difference.

            Why is it a huge difference? Because a good mechanic (who really charges by the hour and knows what they’re doing) can actually create real competition and drive prices down for others. And car *manufacturers* can design vehicles for servicability and drive maintenance prices down. The only thing that can drive down battery packs is the cell price. And the cell price is *supply* limited, not labor limited.

            Also, to be clear comparing (non-plugin) Prius batteries to EV batteries is a massively false analogy. Hybrid batteries are ~kWh. Intrinsically they’re not expensive, small, and easy to replace. Full-scale EV batteries are a totally different beast. Upcoming models will be even worse.

            “Salvage battery packs are quite cheap ”

            Salvage battery packs don’t actually create new battery life – they just take battery life that wasn’t used from one vehicle and plop it into another one. Rebuilding an engine *does* create new engine life. See above – cell prices are *supply* limited. The reason old EV batteries aren’t manufactured anymore is that the cells are all going into *new* packs.

            Replacing aged battery packs with salvaged ones from accident vehicles cannot possibly be sustainable. Obviously – battery packs age faster than the average accident rate of vehicles.

      1. Yes! Put a diesel generator on a trailer and hitch it to the car!
        Used 30kW generators often show up on Craigslist for less than the price of a replacement EV battery.

    2. Seriously? Go find the disposable vapes lying about discarded on the streets with pristine (1 cycle) cells in, extract them and install in cars battery pack. Takes some effort but you’ve un-written off your car.

      1. “Takes some effort but you’ve un-written off your car.”

        Until it bursts into flames the first time you try to charge it. Seriously, Li-Ion cells are not all the same. Trying to construct an EV-scale pack from random cells lying around is just a massive fire hazard.

        A small one for portable use (as had been done in Ukraine), sure. That’s not a problem. You’re not trying to draw hundreds of amps from those.

        1. Well if you stick in the world of normal not performance cars you are not trying to draw all that much there either…

          Not that I disagree the ‘disposable’ Lipo products must be batteries that didn’t meet the spec well enough or they wouldn’t be disposable. Though with the right set up and pretesting each cell to eliminate the real duds and balance each bank there is nothing to stop you using them.

          All that said high power and energy density battery are only going to get cheaper, as now there is enough demand to make it profitable to create more supply (and we are far from being stopped by running out of resources to make them, though we might well get there eventually). So eventually, and probably not too far from now the man hours will be nearly the only cost to rebuild a battery, or build a new one by hand to fit the specs. Just think how expensive the machinist was on the early ICE vehicles – those things are not steam engines that can run when built and put together with a rusty spoon by a madman, ICE wont’ run at all without really fine tolerances, of the sort that were almost unobtainably expensive when ICE was a new technology…

          1. “Well if you stick in the world of normal not performance cars you are not trying to draw all that much there either…”

            Yes, fear that Nissan Leaf performance car! 110 kW motor off of a 350V pack = 314 amps.

            “So eventually, and probably not too far from now the man hours will be nearly the only cost to rebuild a battery,”

            So you’re expecting $10-20/kWh cell costs now? I’ll place an order right along with my flying cars and fusion-powered too cheap to meter electricity.

            Keep dreaming on that. Even if it ends up being possible (which I doubt) cheap battery packs would destroy the automotive industry. They’ll literally do anything they can to make it a pain in the ass. Like, say, I dunno, develop their own unique cell geometry that only they make because they patented it and then pay attention to the charge/discharge curve and sensor readings to make sure things match.

            Nah, something like that would never happen.

          2. When you consider the per pouch/cell draw 1A each perhaps, not small but not huge, so properly balanced banks to keep it even enough and its not unreasonable. Plus the car can be told by the battery (and visa-versa) ‘ooof bud keep the draw down I can’t take anything over x right now’ – Usually thermal limits, but also State of charge and other factors.

            > They’ll literally do anything they can to make it a pain in the ass.

            You mean like Dell have done with their laptop powersupplies, or all the various other locked out DRM crap like coffee pods, and power tool batteries – it doesn’t work, the third party can always reverse engineer or refurbish it when there is a market. And with how strong EV adoption is becoming right now there will be a market. Which is also why lithium batteries have actually climbed in cost recently – the solar power walls and EV’s have spiked the demand and the supply hasn’t caught up yet. But it will, it always does in the end when there is so much money to be made.

            Not saying its going to be super short term cheap – I doubt anything but the most current generation will get much love. Maybe even only the generation after this one, but with how long car models stay on sale and how good the rest of it will still be when battery replacements start to be needed, I’d think not. The current stuff will still be being produced when the outliers on MTBF and the extra heavily used older siblings start needing that transplant.

            But like the way smartphones went from being only available for thousands down to £50 gets you a perfectly decent low end model, that really only suffers for not being extra premium in build quality. Along with the previously unobtainium spares like their screens and batteries are now pretty easy to source, for the popular older models anyways. Or the early days of mechanical pocket/wrist watches, where only the wealthiest of the officers might have one, with only a few folks globally that can repair and maintain them to there being clock repair shops doing it everywhere and time pieces being standard issue. That sort of rapid change in price and availability looks to be coming to EV far more rapidly than would have been expected now so many nations are going to outright ban new ICE powertrain in the nearish future and Russia’s little war has turned fuel prices extra chaotic and high making the EV even better value per mile, so further increasing demand…

            And ultimately a battery is a battery, maybe you need a translator to keep the rest of the car’s electronics none the wiser that this isn’t the same battery they were ‘paired to’ in the factory, but the only thing an EV battery really has to do is meet the basic electrical and mechanical specs well enough to fit in the chassis and be able to make it go.

            Any digital drm type nonsense can be spoofed and reversed – just look at DSLR camera battery for instance, only reason to pay the brands own price is when you are the pro needing that ironclad warranty and to keep the insurer of your gear happy… The rest of us are not likely to spend substantially more than I spent on my camera body for a single battery when the knockoffs work well enough for fractions of the price (yeah mine are older and second hand but still compatible battery wise with some of the brand new ones).

          3. “You mean like Dell have done with their laptop powersupplies,”

            No. Dell has zero incentive to prevent people from getting third-party power supplies or third-party batteries. They never put real effort into preventing people from making them.

            What you’re thinking of is that Dell had a power supply communication path in the connector (a third pin) which told the laptop what supply was plugged in. That had *nothing* to do with preventing 3rd party power supplies.

            That had everything to do with simplifying their construction/supply chain by letting them use different supplies for different laptops and keep the same connector/source supply design. They weren’t trying to lock people out. It was unencrypted 1-wire communication using a bog-standard EEPROM that you can easily sniff and clone. The supplies aren’t even *made* by Dell. They don’t care. They *never* cared. Computers go obsolete on their own.

            The best analog, without a doubt, are printer cartridges. There’s massive incentive for printer manufacturers to lock you in to them, and boy howdy do they use every scrap of technology they can.

            And Epson initially *won* in court! I’m not even sure I would say that they’ve lost yet. They literally banned importation of third party ink cartridges. Ink! The automotive industry is *200 times* larger!

          4. In the Dell case I was thinking it is a pain in the arse how the laptop works with a powersupply it can’t talk to, and how stupidly delicate those things are means its never able to talk to it. Not that it was a DRM, just shoddy engineering and choices to make life awkward for the customer and push to buy the replacements or new machine instead. Same crap slightly different guise.

            But as you say its a fixable problem, so guess what its fixed in many cases, at least while the machine is worth the effort – same damn thing will happen with EV batteries. Just as it does with DSLR battery, Laptop Battery and anything else there is enough market for replacement parts – which there almost certainly will be for most of the current gen EV when enough of them actually start failing, which is still years away. Unless the car companies in question sell the replacement parts at a good price themselves.

            And the same thing happens with printer ink, they can be as obnoxious as they like, but they can’t stop you refilling the old cartridge and resting or replacing its microprocessor if that is what is needed. Or the horde of mods that just trick the printer into seeing 100% full official cartridge no matter what is in the slot..

            The only printer I’ve put genuine ink in for decades has been my photo printer – and that is only because the archival quality ‘fade-proof’ ink is really good and actually not unreasonably expensive (Plus it is hard to get a reputable source to do refills).

          5. “Not that it was a DRM, just shoddy engineering and choices to make life awkward for the customer”

            That exact same “shoddy engineering” evolved into USB-C PD. It wasn’t bad engineering. It was just something that people weren’t used to.

            Well, and the connector wasn’t strain-relieved correctly on the supply side, but that’s not Dell, that’s Delta. They’ve been doing that for years. You’re actually supposed to fold the laptop-side cord backwards and use the attached wrap as strain relief but no one does. (And of course barrel-jack connectors are god awful).

            “And the same thing happens with printer ink, they can be as obnoxious as they like, but they can’t stop you refilling the old cartridge”

            Psst – that’s the equivalent of cell-level replacement. And battery manufacturers *can* prevent that. They can just not sell the equivalent cells. Or they can detect replaced cells. None of this is particularly difficult. Laptop batteries can do this too if they want to – they just don’t care (usually).

            Imagine if an inkjet printer used a patented ink that the printer could actually detect that it’s that ink and refuse to use any other. I dunno. “Smart ink.” With nanotechnology and quantum dots or something. You might say “well, no one would ever buy it.” Gee, I’d also imagine that no one would buy cars that can turn into pumpkins that you *literally* can’t have a shop currently repair, but call it “luxury” and people apparently will show up in droves.

            “The only printer I’ve put genuine ink in for decades has been my photo printer”

            And yet – again! – printer manufacturers actually were able to get customs agents to *seize* “illegal” cartridges and prevent their import. Toner and ink cartridges!

            Why was it so important to printer manufacturers? Because it kills their business model. Why is it so important for car manufacturers to lock-down batteries? Same thing. If the batteries don’t die, those cars will last *way* too long.

            Car manufacturers have *already* been building up “implicit vendor lock-in” for years – bring it back to the dealership, or the warranty goes poof. Now it’s “let us fix it, or we’ll take away features of your car.”

          6. A cell is a cell, ink is ink – and in the case of printer ink carts or batteries that have smarts in the unit it makes absolutely no matter at all what that cell is or ink is, as long as the chip in in its cartridge/case is telling lies of ‘oh I’m official, and everything is running exactly as it should’…

            The battery knows, the printer cartridge knows, the machines they are connected to really do not – the very best they can perhaps try is to infer when the information given and performance don’t match. But as any half way reasonable matching of of the required specifications will easily fall inside run to run and pack to pack variance – it is margin of error stuff! So if it says its ‘Offical Photo Black’ the printer has no choice but to believe it, and if the BMS says everything is ‘normal’ it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference if the cell layout is massively different – as long as it can provide the correct voltage and current (which largely dictates similar cell arrangements for the same chemistry)

            Even more so when the batteries have to have all the smarts in them to regulate the temperature etc! THE BRAINS – WHAT THERE IS OF THEM IS ALMOST ALWAYS ACTUALLY AND ENTIRELY IN THE BATTERY BOX you are cracking open, and actually kind of has to be for safety in their construction facilities – long before the rest of the cars brains are fitted its being validated and shipped around as a battery box lump… So fixing it to report back whatever the rest of the system expects as you crack it open to refurbish it is pretty damn trivial reverse engineering that the internet connected fancy parts can’t do anything about, as they won’t know anything has changed.

            Also as long as nobody ever tells Tesla etc you car has been ‘salvaged’ with a replacement battery they can’t play with its features either, as they don’t and can’t know – about the best they could do with their connected no doubt spyware laden cars is see the onboard GPS reports it to have stayed at garage x, or didn’t report its position at all for a few days – but that isn’t out of the ordinary, if you get a worn or flat tyres or something similarly irrelevant you can drop the car off and just not be able to rush to pick it back up, drive into a signal deadspot like perhaps the multistory and industrial park type areas – perhaps near airports and it can’t report back either, yet its perfectly legitimate use at least potentially…

            Plus the car maker has no particularly huge business interest in their old cars, and they never have – parts have almost always been salvage and 3rd party as the brands often enough haven’t even bothered to offer most parts! A few things they expect will get damaged or worn that they know folks will pay up for at huge profit margins – so as to be worth paying for the staff and warehousing or the disruption of production line JIT shipments to service this demand. For the most part they only care about flogging the new stuff, as that is where they get all the really high margins. Which they still will, as far too many folks either won’t buy second hand at all, have to keep up with the Jones with a shiny new x every other year and entropy can’t be denied forever, so there is always some requirement for new replacements.

            Also customs absolutely should be seizing things claiming to Brand original if they are not, which is all I’ve ever heard of happening – as that is false advertising, may harm the brand’s reputation if its made shoddy etc. But round here at least just claim to be compatible and it is legal.

          7. “Also as long as nobody ever tells Tesla etc you car has been ‘salvaged’ with a replacement battery”

            Nope. As soon as a Tesla vehicle gets a salvage *title* – which is a legal thing – it’s disabled. They don’t need anyone to tell them at all.

            Let me try to give you an example: a 5-year old Tesla gets rear-ended slightly. They determine the car needs a new battery due to insurance risks, even though the physical damage to the Tesla is small. Cost exceeds the value of the car since insurance has to use manufacturer recommended specs, so insurance totals it. Customer says “no, wait, I’ll repair the battery myself.” Insurance company says fine, you buy it back, no problem. Except Tesla says “no, screw you.”

            I really don’t think you understand exactly how bad the situation currently is. I mean, Tesla’s voided people’s warranties based on information they found *on Facebook*. They strip access to the Supercharging network like… whenever they feel like.

            And this is *by far* the largest EV manufacturer in most parts of the world. It’s really, really bad.

  14. That is delusional to think it can be implemented in all but a very limited way, there isn’t enough copper on Earth even for all of the electric cars and robots that we will need. The only way we can avoid “peak copper” for a while at least is for the price of copper ore to rise to double its current rate so as to make poor quality reserves economically viable.

  15. Hey….you take a look at some old magazine issues of Popular Science or Popular Mechanics, and it’s the SAME OLD IDEA !! Which obviously is impractical. Better building more freight rail and container-handling terminals. Maybe an electrified THIRD rail eventually, when the electric grid is improved. And for more electricity; there’s so much GEOTHERMAL energy in the western USA that it was said a giant underground caldera was in danger of Exploding Wyoming. Let’s cool it off, while making plenty electricity from it with turbines, and send it everywhere using new technology Superconducting transmission lines.

  16. There was an extremely good article, very similar to this, by Jenny List, on 11 August, 2020.

    Its title is
    “Our Trucks Won’t Need No Batteries! Electric Trucks Look To Overhead Wires For Power”

    I am simply going to repeat a lightly-edited comment made to that article—

    “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 standpoints: aesthetically, engineering, and commercially. It saw revenue service for approximately forty years, but only in the very limited confines of the ‘Northeast Corridor’ (Washington, DC to Boston, MA, approximately) 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–very, 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.”

    1. And yet Pantographed rail lines are frequently built, and exist in many nations with great long stretches of it – if it was so poor it wouldn’t ever have been built so widely or kept running for very long as in your forty years example…

      It is not a maintenance free or stupidly cheap to build system, the electric third rail may well make more sense if the location is suitable on those fronts. But its not that bad if you are actually using your rails – the reason the US is all powered by diesel is those locomotives are almost throwaway cheap compared to actually upgrading the rail infrastructure. With the fuel costs low enough for the mass/volume hauled that it can survive without upgrading and updating anything.

      The question of scaling up or down really isn’t the issue, there are scaling factors but it is a perfectly practical system at great scale. What stops such systems from being more ubiquitous is how little investment railways globally have had*, and how much other means of transport are subsidised. When your government infrastructure budget is constrained (if existent) and you do not have the captive audience serving EVERYONE in need of longer haul transit, and thus profitable in the way only a monopoly can be. So it doesn’t get the built on cost grounds, and wouldn’t get built on cost grounds even if it cut operating costs to 0.000001% of current levels (which it wouldn’t) as there just isn’t the money being made available upfront to do such a large infrastructure project to then make that huge saving and very quickly massively larger profit.

      *In the UK’s case lots of rail lines were axed for not being profitable/worthwhile enough, and yet there has been lots of suggestions and demands ever since to put them back, so we don’t even have as many connected by rail places as we used to have! Nor has any real money been spent on making the UK network have a decent and standard loading gauge – much of the railway network was built far wider than the ‘standard’ (our railways are the result of an ancient hodgepodge of private companies that built to their own wildly different ideals. That eventually gets sort of stuffed together into a less than perfectly standardised and often illogically constructed whole).

      1. Pantographed rail doesn’t work well in the US flyover country where there’s nobody to look after it.

        It does work well in continental Europe where there’s a town every 10 kilometers along the railway, and if so much as a tree branch falls on the wire, there’s always somebody there to see it and report it, and the fault is cleared most likely within the hour. In the US if a tiny tornado crosses the catenary, it could take days before the train can run again. In other words, the system would spend most of its time broken down.

        1. That I can believe, it certainly sounds reasonable – not sure how bad it would really be in the longer people free zones, with the many and varied terrains across the US its bound to be a poor choice somewhere. But that doesn’t preclude the system from being good at scale. I’ve always preferred the 3rd rail on grounds that it is cheap and much more durable, but it doesn’t do well everywhere either.

          Ultimately electrification of large parts of the USA’s railway could be done, probably should be done and would be done by whatever method best suits that environment. But it won’t happen as the USA really doesn’t seem to spend anything on public infrastructure improvements most of the time…

      2. > yet there has been lots of suggestions and demands ever since to put them back

        People like public transit because it’s government subsidized. There was a scandal some years back when it was revealed that about 70% of the ridership was running on some sort of subsidy: elderly, children, students, veterans, disabled, unemployed… very few “normal” customers bought train or bus tickets because the normal price to make it profitable was and is too expensive and the service is poor.

        Obviously when you ask the ridership whether they would like it back, the answer is “yes” – because the majority of them didn’t pay the proper price for the service.

        1. Except the price per passenger on the train should be very low. Its the way the whole system of transport is subsidised somewhat here and nudged there along with in the UK massively fractured that makes it seem so much more expensive.

          And once it starts getting made expensive vs other travel, thanks to the web of lobbyist, hidden costs of cars*, the web of subsidies, then the passenger who can travel by car will vote with the their wallet as its no longer makes sense. Which makes the ticket yet more expensive as there are even fewer passengers.

          Really railways should be super cheap as in terms of shifting stuff around quickly and easily they are great, usually quite comfortable, and at least in many places really quite convenient – sure you have to do a little walk/cycle at either end to with them but in many cases they are by far the fastest and least stressful way to travel, as roads are so damn congested and then looping around trying to find a parking spot and walking from it can often take just as long as walking from the station would…

          And you are not asking the ridership, you are asking the folks that live around the axed rail line, who by definition can’t be using it while it doesn’t exist – if they use trains at all they have to find another way to get to the rest of the network first, and many of whom would have and use a car often BUT find the rail line ideal for their daily commute into the local city, or their weekend shopping trip, or whatever.

          *Using a car sounds cheap compared to the railway, and it certainly can be sometimes – but when you factor in all the potentially applicable less obvious costs like parking charges in city center (which in some places are way more than the train ticket on their own), toll roads/bridges, the wear and tear, the insurance, the inevitable time you get a fine for something as you didn’t know the roads and missed the sign, or didn’t make it back to car before the parking expired, and not just the fuel cost (that is generally what stands out as the metric to use) even with our stupidly expensive railways in the UK its not as clear a winner as it seems to be.

  17. Highly complex expensive infrastructure to build out and maintain.
    Centerlized non flexible, limited use to a specific vehicle type, trucks, bus system.
    Burning the diesel in a individual truck is far more efficient than a complex power generation and complex power distribution system.

    The concept is a waste of time and money.

    1. Apparently you missed the section in the article about the relative thermodynamic effeciency of an electric motor compared to other forms of propulsion. But there’s an actual, successful example of a similar system already working in the US. Diesel electric locomotives operate on electric power in urban centers but run on diesel fuel between them. It wouldn’t take as much expense or effort as you seem to think to run overheated catenaries along highways in a similar fashion.

  18. Probably a good idea for nations without a viable rail network, but standardised containers and systems to transfer them between automated trains is what I really want to see (use that Swiss underground railway setup that’s been discussed lately for the last mile, have automated loading and unloading setups for the containers, yet keep it agricultural enough that it’ll still run after major societal collapse)

  19. Not a chance the oil companies will allow it to happen in the USA. Europe might get some modern transport but the oil companies will ensure the USA stays firmly in the 1800’s industrial age as long as their profit and CEO’s bonus’s persist.

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