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Siemens Mobility CTO Roland Edel was told building an electrified highway was impossible. Now, Germany is considering installing 4,000 kilometers

For spearheading Siemens’s eHighway project, which charges electric trucks as they drive, Roland Edel is one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People of 2020.

Siemens Mobility CTO Roland Edel was told building an electrified highway was impossible. Now, Germany is considering installing 4,000 kilometers
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The idea of converting the famous German autobahn into an electrified highway has been percolating at industrial manufacturing company Siemens since the 1940s, “but I put it back on the agenda,” says engineer Roland Edel. Even so, board members told him they’d never see his plan, dubbed the eHighway, realized within their lifetimes. But after tests in Berlin, Sweden, and L.A., the company successfully opened a five-kilometer stretch of eHighway in Germany in May 2019. Siemens’s system converts energy from overhead contact lines to current in the motors of specially outfitted freight trucks, allowing them to run without fossil fuels. These trucks are custom-built by Volkswagen-owned Scania and fitted with links, called pantographs, behind the driver’s cabin that collect power when in contact with the overhead line. Over the past year, the eHighway has withstood winter storms and auto fires and has proved so promising that the German government is currently considering signing off on another 4,000 kilometers, which would make up one-third of the country’s entire highway system and convert 60% of its trucking to be fossil fuel-free. “If Germany decides on this, I’m pretty sure it will have a domino effect in Europe,” Edel says.