Let us go back to the DIT Duisburg Intermodal Terminal on 6 May 2019:
Many guests from the worlds of politics, business and the media were waiting for a very special handover of keys in an atmosphere of excitement. This was the Monday in May when Rhenus Trucking received the key to the first fully electric truck in its new e-fleet and handed it to its customer, Contargo. Rarely has Rhenus Trucking been in the spotlight to this extent. The Rhenus subsidiary, which leases vehicles and drivers to other Rhenus companies as a service provider, normally only appears on the internal stage.
The handover of the keys was a moment charged with emotion for Sascha Hähnke, Managing Director of Rhenus Trucking. “It’s great that we’ve found a customer in Contargo, whose thinking is just as innovative as ours and is actively promoting sustainability,” he said with pride. However, implementing the project was anything but simple, because there are only a few manufacturers of large, batteryoperated trucks in the market place. The search lasted a full two years.
The new Rhenus e-fleet
- Vehicles: six 40-tonne trucks
- Manufacturers: DAF, Framo, E-Force
- Customer: Contargo
- Places where deployed: Duisburg, Neuss, Emmerich
- Range: 100 - 250 kilometres
- CO2 savings per annum: 400 tonnes | up to 90 percent
Rhenus Trucking as a pioneer
Within the Rhenus Group, Rhenus Trucking specialises in testing new technology and sustainable vehicles. The service provider had previously operated hybrid trucks like the Mercedes Atego, for example. “Our goal is not to maximise our profits, but we pool innovations, vehicle technology as well as providing qualifications and further training for professional truck drivers. In the end, this benefits all the units,” Hähnke adds.
The purchase of the large e-trucks therefore seems consistent, but is still a bold step. The Transport Minister in North Rhine-Westphalia, Hendrik Wüst, is aware of this too. “I’m grateful to you that you’re acting as a pioneer,” he said, full of praise when the vehicle was handed over. Comparable electric trucks cost about three times more than diesel trucks. Depending on their design, their range is, however, restricted to between 100 and 250 kilometres – after this, the battery has to be recharged. It is often necessary to first create the necessary charging infrastructure – and the way that the vehicles are deployed has to accommodate the charging time too.
“E-trucks are therefore not suitable for long-distance transport operations yet. However, they’re a sensible alternative for local traffic and not just since there have been environmental zones and bans on diesel vehicles in inner-city areas,” Hähnke adds with a sense of conviction.
The sector has acknowledged the fact that Rhenus Trucking is enabling low-emission transport with its e-fleet and is boosting the idea of e-mobility. The specialist magazines, VerkehrsRundschau and TRUCKER, have awarded Rhenus, Contargo and DAF the “Green Truck Logistic Innovation 2019” prize.
Up to 90 percent less CO2
Even if some conventional electricity is still being used to recharge the batteries this year, it is still possible to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 40 percent by deploying the e-trucks – and that figure rises to as much as 90 percent if green energy is available. This is urgently needed, because heavy goods vehicles are responsible for about one quarter of all CO2 emissions in the transport sector.
In order to test various models, Rhenus Trucking purchased vehicles from three manufacturers: two from the Dutch company, DAF, two from the German firm, Framo, and two from the Swiss enterprise, E-Force. They are due to transport containers at the Contargo terminals at the ports of Duisburg, Neuss and Emmerich in future.
“As our goals include decarbonisation by 2050 and trucks and ships in particular cause the most CO2 emissions in the transport sector, we’re making a start here. Sustainability is an integral part of our corporate activities,” says Kristin Kahl, the Contargo member of staff who is responsible for sustainable solutions. “We’re breaking new ground, saving CO2 immediately and are excited to see how our customers respond,” she says, summarising the situation.
Use for local transport services
The Rhenus e-trucks operate on average within a radius of 40 kilometres from the terminals at their bases along the rivers Rhine and Ruhr. The battery-operated trucks complete two or three runs every day and each truck typically travels 240 kilometres in the process.
On behalf of the Rhenus Group
Rhenus Trucking has been available to provide support for ten years whenever other Rhenus companies require vehicles and drivers. Apart from Contargo, it mainly leases its trucks to Rhenus Freight and the recycling and bulk commodities logistics company, Rhenus RETrans. Rhenus Trucking has its headquarters in Duisburg and operates repair shops in Unna and Plaid. The truck provider also employs its own driving instructors and they offer further training and help drivers consume less fuel.
No preference for any particular technology: battery, hydrogen, gas
Rhenus Trucking and Contargo have achieved their success by working together. Both are long-standing partners. “We’re always looking for long-term cooperation so that both sides can benefit. We’re not only able to offer good conditions through our network, but also guarantee independence in the face of developments in the external market,” Hähnke promises.
Even Hähnke is unable to predict what kind of future electric vehicles will have. However, longer battery service times and intelligent, rapid charging stations, which are connected to the scheduling procedures, could further increase the level of attractiveness. Nevertheless, Hähnke does not believe that there will be a complete switch to electric power for all trucks. Michael Viefers, a Member of the Rhenus Group Management Board, views things similarly. “We have no preference for any particular technology and want to make our vehicle fleet more sustainable all the time – regardless of whether the vehicles are powered by battery, hydrogen, LNG or CNG.”
What is certain is that the Rhenus Trucking vehicle fleet will continue to develop in future too and be guided by innovations that are introduced to the market. The company has only just set its sights on LNG and CNG vehicles and started to test them.