Trailer Dynamics co-founder Michael Nimtsch on eTrailers’ contribution to haulage decarbonisation
You can read this article in 6 minutes
Post-pandemic, one of the prevailing themes in road transport circles has been the drive towards low and zero-emission transports. The last 6 months in particular have seen multiple announcements of both hydrogen and electric HGV orders. However, the push towards sustainability inevitably involves a lot more than just non-fossil fuel-powered engines. HVO is seen by some as a solution for making existing diesel fleets greener, while other biogas fuels are part of the picture too. On top of this, there is potential for eTrailers to enhance the green credentials of pretty much every truck on the market.
Eschweiler-based Trailer Dynamics is one of the companies at the heart of eTrailer development. Indeed, together with Krone, the company is to provide logistics giant DB Schenker with up to 2,000 eTrailers.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, Trailer Dynamics’ electrified trailers define a new way of driving the entire Tractor Trailer System by outsourcing the electric drivetrain to the trailer. This makes it possible to support the drive of the tractor unit.
The eTrailers, which can be combined and used with tractor units from all manufacturers, support diesel, gas, electric, and hydrogen-powered tractors.
In addition, a specially developed component uses a patented sensor system to determine the driving dynamics of the tractor-trailer combination, and then readjusts the eTrailer in real time so that the eTrailer supports the tractor unit. The electric drivetrain also allows energy to be recovered during braking.
According to Trailer Dynamics and Krone, the eTrailers can yield a 20%-40% CO2 emission reduction when twinned with a fossil-fuel powered lorry.
To find out more about the potential for eTrailers to play a major role in the decarbonisation of road transport, and learn about what the future has in store for the eTrailer concept, we got in touch with Michael Nimtsch, co-founder and managing director of Trailer Dynamics.
According to Nimtsch, interest in Trailer Dynamics/Krone eTrailers is “very high across Europe”. He adds that logistics companies large and small, as well as market leaders and forwarders, have all pre-ordered eTrailers. To be more specific, he puts the number of orders at “several thousand” with those orders coming from more than “a hundred companies”.
The Trailer Dynamics co-founder and managing director also told trans.iNFO that a key facet of the eTrailer is its “plug and play” functionality:
“Due to the fact that the tractor unit and the trailer are coupled and uncoupled several times a day, it is essential for the eTrailer concept from Trailer Dynamics/Krone to guarantee the so-called tractor manufacturer independence of the system. The eTrailer from Trailer Dynamics/Krone can be combined with any standard tractor unit simply using the plug and play method. This applies to the combination with diesel trucks as well as with battery-electric trucks.”
Nimtsch also believes that despite ambitious climate targets in Europe, diesel lorries will be operating on the continent’s roads “well after 2045″. This, he argues, means that eTrailer can help to make these vehicles more environmentally friendly.
“Diesel semi-trailer tractors will still be in use well after 2045. In addition, only 50% of all diesel tractor units comply with the Euro 6 standard. The eTrailer from Trailer Dynamics/Krone therefore addresses in particular the existing fleet of diesel semi-trailer tractors that are already on the roads today and cannot meet the increasing demand for low-emission logistics. The combination of the eTrailer with these semitrailer tractors leads these existing diesel systems back to the market of Green Logistic and decarbonisation of logistics,” Nimtsch tells trans.iNFO.
In addition to this, eTrailers can also help to extend the range of electric lorries – something that will no doubt be crucial due to the limited battery range of the first generations of electric HGVs.
“BEV tractor units are currently not able to provide sufficient energy for long distances in heavy traffic. Trailer Dynamics eTrailer offers the possibility for range extension. This technology enables fully electric freight transport for long distances and reduces the charging cycles in the vicinity of an incomplete charging infrastructure for heavy goods traffic. The market ramp-up of fully electric e-mobility in heavy goods traffic is thus clearly supported,” Nimtsch says.
It must be said that eTrailers themselves are fairly novel, and they too have scope for future development. With regards to this, we quizzed Nimtsch on the some the future possibilities that eTrailers could offer.
For example, could eTrailers ever be used to provide emergency charging power to the main tractor unit? In the opinion of the Trailer Dynamics co-founder, such a feature is not being looked into, but is conceivable.
“This is not foreseen at present. If we connect the trailer to the tractor by cable, in order to transfer energy, this will result in completely different requirements in terms of regulations and technical design.. It is conceivable for the future, of course,”
Moreover, the company is also hoping to make strides with regards to the synchronized energy use of the two units, both BEV and eTrailer:
“As a first mover regarding eTrailer Technology Trailer Dynamics/Krone will constantly develop and improve the eTrailer technology and increase its efficiency. One of these future developments is also the question of the optimal and possibly synchronized energy use of the two units BEV and eTrailer,” Nimtsch tells trans.iNFO.
We also asked Nimtsch about the possibility of conventional trailers being retrofitted into eTrailers. Unfortunately, he says that this would not be economically viable. He nonetheless adds that it will be possible to refurbish eTrailers themselves to bring them up to future standards.
Finally, where else might future generations of eTrailers develop? It seems that shedding weight is a priority for Trailer Dynamics.
Nimtsch stresses that “efficiency, weights and dimensions are the guardrails of development”. He also promises that Trailer Dynamics are seeking “constant optimisation” when it comes to weight reduction and other areas of development.