In the “SPIRIT-E” project, a diverse consortium is confronting the central challenges in the electrification of commercial truck fleets and their future-oriented integration into the energy system. The central research points are: Bidirectional charging and the semi-public deployment of private charging infrastructure. Scalable solutions are developed and tested in a living lab, in order to accelerate the ramp-up of electric commercial trucks and thus set in motion a central lever for decarbonizing the transport sector.
The success of the transformation of the transport and energy sector requires a change in all sectors of fossil mobility use. While the transformation in the private mobility sector is proceeding at an increasing pace, the transformation in the commercial context, particularly in logistics, is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, freight transport accounts for 38 % of emissions in the transport sector, which means that electrification in this segment of the transport sector can contribute significantly to achieve climate objectives . Payload, range, and efficiency requirements coupled with high cost pressure pose major technology transformation challenges for both vehicle manufacturers and freight forwarders. For the efficient operation of battery electric commercial trucks, which have the highest potential for emission reduction , the reliable availability of charging infrastructure with sufficient charging power is a crucial criterion. The expansion of private charging infrastructure at depot locations as well as in public is essential. The increasing number of new electric vehicles with high charging capacities that accompanies electrification also pose new challenges for the energy system and its included stakeholders (transmission and distribution grid operators) .
Equivalent to the electric passenger car segment, there is also a “chicken-and-egg problem” in the commercial truck segment and the charging infrastructure required for it. In the future, the supply of electric commercial trucks will require both fast charging points with high charging power for intermediate charging during breaks in driving and rest periods, for example, and charging infrastructure with moderate charging power for overnight charging. The charging infrastructure required for intermediate charging in the power range > 500 kW is almost not available today. The development, testing and energy system integration of charging systems with charging powers in the “mega” range is currently being addressed in the “NEFTON” research and development project. The availability of charging systems with moderate charging capacities, e.g. for night-time charging, is also only just beginning. High investment costs for charging infrastructure and electric commercial trucks, uncertainties in planning and a lack of “know-how” for the electric development of commercial truck depots represent the central challenges that are slowing down the ramp-up of electrification in the commercial truck segment.
Objective (overall project)
In SPIRIT-E, two technological enablers that address these challenges are tested. These enablers could play a future key role in electrification in this sector: Bidirectional charging and the semi-public provision of private charging infrastructure. In terms of implementation capability, the project aims at the practical implementation and demonstration of technological solutions in field trials at logistics depots (living labs).
The first enabler, bidirectional charging, is already being tested in the electric passenger car segment in various projects such as “Bidirectional Charging Management” (BDL) and “living lab for integrated e-mobility” (unIT-e²), and the first commercial solutions are slowly entering the market. In the electric commercial truck segment, the technology is still in its infancy. Particularly due to the high charging capacities as well as the plannability of delivery trips respectively the plannability of charging/discharging processes, the technology promises a high potential in the commercial truck segment to generate additional revenues. Bidirectional charging thus represents a key lever that could accelerate the amortization of the particularly high investment costs for commercial trucks.
The second enabler, the semi-public deployment of private charging infrastructure, also aims at generating additional revenues respectively accelerating the amortization of charging infrastructure at depot locations. By temporarily “opening up” the charging infrastructure for third-party vehicles and their charging demands at a private depot location, freight forwarders/logistics companies can take on the role of e-mobility provider (EMP) and thus optimize their charging infrastructure utilization and revenues (“Energy as a Service”). However, a central framework condition is the priority of charging own commercial trucks, which is why the release of charging points for external vehicles must be regulated, e.g., via a reservation system.
To realize and demonstrate these enablers, a diverse consortium is working on the further development of essential sub-aspects as well as their interoperable linking into a functional overall construct, which is reflected in the project structure.
The project is divided into 13 interdisciplinary work packages (Fig. 1). The joint project follows the guiding principle: “From use case to component development to demonstration”. Starting from developed use cases, the technological hardware and software components are further developed and assembled. The core of the project is the demonstration of identified use cases in field trials at depot locations (living lab), which on the one hand provides proof of feasibility, and on the other hand represents an essential milestone on the way to market maturity of the technological components.
In addition, the demonstration will be accompanied by scientific analyses by the research partners. These address holistic issues around the topics of: Vehicle, charging infrastructure, energy system, economic efficiency and digitization. For example, economic feasibility studies of energy-related use cases for commercial trucks will be performed to identify potential for cost reduction, among other things. Accompanying the field tests, vehicle and location-related data will be identified and made available in a standardized form in “Data Spaces”. Stakeholders, processes, interfaces and barriers in the electrical development of commercial vehicle depots will also be identified and evaluated. In the final synthesis of results, the identified implementation barriers and possible remedial measures will result in recommendations for action for the electrification of the commercial truck sector.
The project has a high degree of complexity and includes various stakeholders from the vehicle to the energy system. Figure 2 shows the relevant stakeholders/roles, processes and interfaces in the project.
Bidirectional charging systems will be installed at a logistics site/depot (for which the site operator/forwarding company is responsible), at which selected commercial trucks will be charged bidirectionally, taking local conditions into account, in order to provide energy-related services. In addition, the charging system is to be temporarily available for third-party charging demand, whereby individual charging slots are to be booked via a reservation system (“shared depot”). In the context of data management and aggregation, a platform is being further developed in SPIRIT-E on which fleet operators/external vehicles can temporarily reserve (semi-)public charging slots. Further data in the context of charging operations and potentially available flexibilities will be aggregated via a second data interface. Through this interface, the flexibilities of the commercial trucks of individual depots are recorded and marketed as part of an aggregated pool to the electricity markets as well as markets for energy system services. In the case of bidirectional vehicles, both load-side and generation-side flexibility products can be provided. The implemented data hubs also represent the interface to the energy system, which is mapped in the project primarily through theoretical analyses by the research partners.
Objective (subproject of FfE)
As one of three research institutes in the project, FfE is primarily involved in the work packages for accompanying research and addresses the central energy industry research questions of the project. The subproject of FfE starts at the interfaces between the different stakeholders and thus fulfills an interface function between the automotive industry, the energy industry and ultimately also the end users respectively the carriers/fleet operators.
The primary objective of the FfE in the project is the holistic investigation of the possibilities and effects of bidirectionally charging, electrified commercial truck fleets as well as the optimized energy system integration of “shared depot” locations from an energy industry perspective. This includes the identification of use cases, on the basis of which energy-economic and energy-technical analyses for distribution grid and energy system integration are performed. The potential for grid-serving integration of depots as well as different types of energy-economic integration of these locations will be analyzed and evaluated from a grid and system perspective. In addition, regional potentials for the ramp-up of commercial truck electrification will be identified and a blueprint for the electrical development of logistics sites will be developed, building on the experience gained in the project.
The innovation project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) (funding code: 01MV23015F). The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is responsible for the three-year pilot project.