Sweden Opens Its First Electric Highway

The movement towards renewable energy and zero-emission vehicles took another step forward this week. Scania and the Swedish government opened their first stretch of Electric-Highway, or e-Highway.

Scania has been working for years on their hybrid tractor-trailer trucks. They have finally landed on a system that works. By adding a pantograph to the top of the trucks, they enable the trucks easy on/off attachment to electricity lines strung along a single lane of the highway.

Scania portends that the wider installation of these trucks using E-Highways in Sweden will “drop fossil fuel emissions 80-90% and energy consumption by 50% or more.” In fact, the company claims that this is the first step towards Sweden being completely fossil fuel emission free by 2030. Since the trucks will be able to switch between a 100% electric engine and a hybrid engine when off the pantograph, operating costs for truck companies are expected to plummet as well. So lower carbon emissions on the way to zero, jobs created building and maintaining the e-highways, and more money for the businesses running the shipping companies. That seems like a win for everyone.

Although this may seem like a sci-fi fantasy world of the future, it’s actually technology we’ve had for a long, long time. Seattle was the first city in the USA to implement the trolley bus system in 1941. Those trolley buses in Seattle replaced a tram system that criss-crossed the city, which was also powered by electricity. In fact, the first electric street cars date all the way back to 1881 in Berlin. That’s 135 years ago!

Clearly, this is less a matter of new technology than it is a matter of re-embracing something we foolishly abandoned in favor of fossil fuel vehicles over half a century ago. And it seems we are only now waking to that tactical error as public transport, personal vehicles, and even shipping are moving back to electric and soon-to-be zero-emissions vehicles.