How autonomous freight vehicles will drive circular energy solutions

Writing in Logistics Voices, Altelium’s Alex Johns, describes the role that autonomous vehicles will play in the freight industry.

The freight industry will quickly adopt autonomous vehicles because of their running cost savings.

Where there is currently an acute shortage of HGV drivers, autonomous vehicles will solve the problem, although for some years there will also need to be a person in the driving position.

Autonomous vehicles will gradually become acknowledged as safer than vehicles driven by humans alone.

Alex explains the particular role that autonomous, electric freight vehicles will play in second life battery energy storage systems.

Freight vehicles have to comply with strict weight limitations, so their batteries energy density is more commercially critical than on other electric vehicles. The more energy you can store for a given weight, the more earning cargo weight that can be carried. Additionally, the more energy that can be stored the longer the range of the vehicle.

Consequently, where an electric car battery could comfortably be on the road for eight years, an HGV battery may need to retire after less than half of that period due to its energy density decreasing to uneconomic levels.

This would be environmentally unacceptable were it not for the fact that the battery can go on to a second life in an Energy Storage Systems (BESS) to store and supply energy from renewable sources.

The roof of the distribution centres which the freight vehicles visit will be covered with solar panels, using the sun’s rays to create energy which will be stored in the centre’s Energy Storage System (BESS). While loading and unloading, the vehicle batteries will be charged from the energy created and stored on site.

It’s the sort of virtuous circle the green lobby has been wanting to see for years and it’s vital to explain the role of autonomous, electric vehicles in making it happen.

Once made commercially viable by the freight industry this approach will be adopted at a household level, and the energy market will change forever.

Anticipating concern about both autonomous vehicles and the environmental credentials of electric batteries, it’s vital to show that we have the technology to keep the roads safe and extend the life of batteries.

Alex Johns is Altelium’s business development manager and a member of the PAS 1884 BSI Steering Group, “Guidelines for safety drivers in automated vehicle testing and trialling”.

For more information about industry standards relating to Connected and Autonomous Vehicles please visit the BSI website:

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