Mack and Siemens Team up to Create Catenary-Powered Truck

Author: Mia Bevacqua   

If you've ever seen a trolley car, you've seen a catenary. It's that mess of electrical wires, connecting the car to the overhead lines. This set up seems more at home on a train than it does on a big rig, but Mack Trucks has never been one for conformity. The company recently demonstrated a plug-in electric hybrid (PHEV) truck that can recharge through an overhead catenary. 

It's not a cable car, it's a big rig

Mack's truck is a prototype PHEV, based on Pinnacle DayCab model. And yes, it can connect directly to overhead lines for power. When connected to the catenary system, the truck produces zero emissions.

To showcase its capability, the Pinnacle DayCab PHEV recently drove a mile on the catenary-equipped, eHighway. 

The goal of Mack's project, sponsored by South Coast Air Quality Management District, is to create a PHEV for local operation. This makes sense, since building catenary infrastructure into highways would be extremely difficult.

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Cleaning up SoCal freight ports 

Two prime locations for a catenary-powered truck are the Los and Angles and Long Beach Ports. These are the two largest ports in the country  almost 16 million shipping containers moved through them last year. 

At the same time, the twin ports produced millions of tons of pollutants. In fact, the ports are so dirty, the mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach set a goal to have near-zero emissions at the locations by 2035. 

To address the problem, Supplier Siemens installed the catenary eHighway system. It hangs over a mile-long stretch of road near the Los Angeles and Long Beach Ports. 

Siemens also supplied Mack with a current collector. This device allows overhead lines to power the Pinnacle DayCab's electric drivetrain. 

Together, the Siemens eHighway and PHEV Mack truck provide the ports with zero-emissions transportation.

eHighways – are they coming to a roadway near you?

There are longer eHighway systems already in use in Europe, developed mostly by Siemens. The company created a 2-kilometer catenary test track in Sweden in 2016. It then followed up with a 10-kilometer stretch of eHighway on the German Autobahn.

Southern California's South Coast Air Quality Management District will determine whether the infrastructure can be similarly fitted to U.S. highway system. 

Closing down the 405 freeway to install a catenary, eHighway? Probably not going to happen anytime soon. But the Mack-Siemens system is definitely an intriguing concept. 


Sources: Charged EVs, Mack, Trucks.com


Mia Bevacqua
Mia is an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician, L1, L2 and L3 Advanced Level Specialist. She has over 12 years of experience in the automotive industry and a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology. These skills have been applied toward content writing, technical writing, inspections, consulting, automotive software engineering.
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