In Germany, DB Schenker has signed a cooperation agreement with Trailer Dynamics. The logistics service provider will gradually roll out 2,000 eTrailers on different tractors in its European network from 2024 onwards. The trailers can be equipped with batteries of 300 kWh, 450 kWh or 600 kWh, depending on requirements.
The eTrailer includes its own electric drive that reacts to the driving behaviour of its coupled tractor unit, which can also be a conventionally driven semi-trailer truck. The company says that the eTrailer’s drive relieves the tractor’s load, providing fuel savings of up to 40 per cent over a distance of 500 to 600 kilometres. Some of this energy comes from recovery during braking. The battery can then be recharged with up to 44 kW AC or 350 kW DC.
The core of the system is a patented sensor system that records the driving dynamics of the vehicle and controls the drive of the Trailer. The system is designed in such a way that the trailer never overrides the tractor unit. The drive control of the eTrailer works independently, so no interface to the tractor is necessary. This means that the eTrailer can be used flexibly not only with tractors from different manufacturers, but also with different types of drive, irrespective of whether diesel, gas, battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell.
DB Schenker calls the use of the eTrailer as a “game changer in the decarbonisation of long-distance transport”. Wolfgang Janda, Executive Vice President, Head of Network & Linehaul Management at DB Schenker, explains: “The use of eTrailers enables early entry into the phased transition to a completely CO2-free fleet. In our view, electric trailers do not represent a transitional technology but will instead be a firm component of our commercial vehicle fleet over the long term. This marks yet another step in our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint and become net-zero by 2040.”
The LFP batteries installed in the eTrailer are supplied by CATL. This is the fruit of a development partnership between the two companies that began in 2020. At the IAA Transportation trade show in Germany in September 2022, the two companies announced that they would deepen their existing partnership.
In addition to the use of LFP batteries with cell-to-pack technology from CATL, both companies plan to expand the eTrailer products to specific markets and explore battery-swapping solutions for e-Trailers. While battery swapping for trucks is picking up pace in China – this solution has not yet gained significant traction in Europe, where large commercial vehicles are in the infant stages of decarbonisation. The advantages are clear: batteries can be easily upgradable without dismantling the vehicle, the used batteries are more easily allocated to second-life uses, and getting enough energy for a long journey takes only the time required to physically swap out the batteries, which is generally done robotically at a battery swapping station in a matter of minutes.
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