Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari seems passionate about anything electric when it comes to travel and transport. He is doing his best to make EVs more popular in India. And now, he is bitten by the idea of the electric road. Yesterday, in a function, he said that the government is planning to build an electric highway between Delhi and Mumbai.
“Our plan is to make an electric highway from Delhi to Mumbai. Just like trolleybuses, you can also use trolleybuses,” he said. By the way, it’s not the first time he’s talked about electric highways. Earlier, too, he had told the Indian Parliament that the government is trying to build a separate ‘electronic highway’ on the 1,300km-long Delhi-Mumbai expressway, where trucks and buses can travel at speeds of 120km per hour.
So it looks like he and the government are taking this seriously, although this electric highway will take time to build.
But what is it about?
This electric highway that is talked about will likely be a separate lane on the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, construction of which is ongoing. It is likely to be viable for electric trucks and electric buses, as opposed to electric cars and two-wheelers.
But what is this electric road? Basically, an electric highway is a road that supplies energy to vehicles that travel along it, including through overhead lines.
Germany is a world leader in this, where Siemens pioneered eHighway technology. On eHighway, trucks can operate fully electrically and at the same time charge their batteries without using fuel.
Siemens Mobility supplies hybrid trucks that extract, like a tram, electricity from an overhead line via a pantograph. (A pantograph is just a device mounted on the roof of an electric train, tram or any vehicle to collect energy through contact with an overhead line.) The system, which uses 670 volt direct current overhead cables, not only reduces consumption energy consumption in half, but also substantially reduces air pollution.
When the trucks are connected to the overhead cable, they run on electricity only. When they get back on the road, they go back to their hybrid engines. It is said that if a driver swerved to the left or right while connected to the cables, it would not detach.
There is a proposal in Germany to equip 300 kilometers of highways with airlines by 2023 and electrify a total of 4,000 kilometers by 2030.
How close is India to an electronic highway?
Elsewhere in America, some pilot projects are underway to test similar electronic highways. Interestingly, in Italy, Stellantis and Iveco and several companies are working on a technology in which coils positioned in dedicated lanes will transfer power directly to cars, trucks and buses without having to stop at charging stations to recharge the battery. Called the DWPT (Dynamic Wireless Power Transfer) system, it wirelessly recharges EVs as they travel through specially equipped tracks.
But the e-road India is contemplating is nothing like this. It will be closer to what Siemens is working on. To be clear, India is still only in the early stages of the plan, which, of course, needs to be approved and then executed. It appears that it will take at least a year or more for the e-road to become a reality in India.
But by electrifying the main grid and supplying electricity to the trucks and buses that run there with electric drives, a huge and rapid contribution to climate protection can be achieved.