Green Logistics on the Last Mile

In cooperation with partners, IAV is testing two fully electrified semitrailer trucks in Saxony

No logistics without trucks. But are there any trucks without emissions? This is precisely what IAV is working on with partners in the funded eJIT project. Two electrically driven semitrailer trucks are to demonstrate that the eco-friendly drive system is also suitable for transporting freight. The two e-trucks will be on the road between Zwickau and Leipzig from as early as 2017. One of them will even be fitted with assistance systems for highly automated driving.

There is heavy traffic between the Porsche plant and the sports car maker’s logistics center in Leipzig. Trucks cover 70,000 kilometers a year on the 3-kilometer journey to deliver components to the production lines just in time. Trucks also commute almost non-stop between the VW plant in Zwickau and the close-by operation of Volkswagen’s partner Schnellecke Logistics – they travel the 10-kilometer journey in three shifts a day on six days of the week.

Electric 40-tonne truck in real-world use for the first time

Soon, at least two of the trucks will not be producing emissions any more. As part of the “eJIT – Just-in-Time Logistics System on Electric Mobility Basis” project, IAV is fitting the two semitrailer trucks with an all-electric drive. “We are the first to electrify a 40-tonne truck and have it in full service”, explains Sven Hönicke, head of the E-Traction Test Center department at IAV. “We want to demonstrate that the last mile in logistics can be driven with green technology.” Besides IAV, Schnellecke Logistics, Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, Porsche Leipzig GmbH as well as the Saxony Automotive Supplier Network (AMZ) are also involved in eJIT.

Thanks to the electric drives, each with a continuous power output of 280 kilowatts and a peak power output of 320 kilowatts as well as batteries with a capacity of 140 kilowatt hours, both trucks reach a top speed of 85 kilometers an hour and can cover a maximum distance of 70 kilometers. But they will never have to travel that far in one go on a single battery charge because intelligent charging technology is also part of the project. The truck on the journey between Schnellecke Logistics and VW’s plant in Zwickau is recharged on 150 kilowatts by DC charging during the eight-minute stop at the loading bay. And in Leipzig, the project partners use 45 minutes per shift to fill the battery with energy three times a day. None of the cargo area is sacrificed by the energy storage system because it fits into the space between front and rear axle.

Both journeys place different demands on the two trucks. In Zwickau much of the federal highway permits a relatively high speed of 60 to a maximum of 80 kilometers an hour, and there are noticeable inclines there. In Leipzig, on the other hand, the vehicles are mainly in the city and on the flat.

Highly automated driving in Leipzig

As a particular technical highlight, the Leipzig truck not only has its electric drive system but is also being provided with an assistance system for highly automated driving. “We see very big potential for this in logistics”, Hönicke says. “In future, for example, the truck could back up to the ramp automatically. This would ease the
driver’s work, and the time gained can be used for taking a break.” But the truck is also to take over the steering wheel outside the factory premises. For this, the project partners are planning to equip several traffic lights with Car-2-X technology that is designed to help the truck turn off automatically by wireless communication. Further challenges are roundabouts and poorly marked lanes. Leipzig was chosen because the journey within the city is shorter than in Zwickau.

Although IAV’s experts can build on much from the passenger car segment for their tests on highly automated driving, new solutions are also called for. Carefully driving a truck from the factory site out onto the road, for example, is a function for which new sensor technology and algorithms must be developed.

eJIT was launched in early 2016 and the two semitrailer trucks are to be available no later than the fall. From the end of the year they will be fitted with the electric drive system and from April 2017 the plan is for them to provide Porsche and Volkswagen with zero-emission logistical support. Highly automated driving in Leipzig is set for the beginning of 2018. The eJIT project is to be completed at the end of 2018.