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13.12.2016

Cost effective and environmentally friendly freight transport: CargoBeamer holds greatest promise

In a study of three scenarios for increased electric vehicle freight traffic, the Swiss research institute Infras investigated the business, economic and environmental impacts on achievement of climate targets by 2030. In the comparison, rail-road combined transport and in particular the CargoBeamer technology offers the best preconditions for protecting the climate, significantly relieving the motorway network, while at the same time being capable of realisation with low investment.

In the report presented to traffic and environmental policy makers in Berlin on Wednesday, Infras compares the complexity and environmental benefits of conventional unaccompanied rail-road combined transport (UCT) with the CargoBeamer technology and the proposal for trucks with current collectors via an overhead power line on motorways. The traffic forecast used by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) as the basis for the Federal Transport Route Plans 2030 was applied as the starting point for volumes and the initial scenario.

The BMVI therefore expects an increase in road freight traffic of 170 billion tonne kilometres (billion tkm) by 2030 to 607 billion tkm, a rise of 39% compared to 2010.  The share, or modal split, for Germany's total freight traffic is projected to remain at 18%, increasing by 46 billion to 154 billion tkm.

However, in order to achieve the Federal Government's climate targets, it is necessary to invest not only in sustainable passenger transport but also in environmentally-friendly electric vehicle freight transport. Infras investigated the costs and benefits of shifting a further 40 billion tkm from road freight traffic to three possible electric vehicle freight transport technologies by 2030. The social economic benefit for the environment was assessed based on the methodology of the Federal Environmental Agency for estimating environmental costs in the categories of air pollutants, climate, and noise, as well as nature and landscape.

The result clearly supports the use of rail: In these scenarios, the two rail-based technologies of conventional UCT and the CargoBeamer achieve nearly identical high environmental advantages of €1.1 billion per year or around € 500 per freight consignment, whereas shifting this traffic volume to overhead power line vehicles results in an environmental benefit of € 0.26 billion per year or € 55 per freight consignment.

Measured against this is the comparatively low investment of around € 0.6 billion in 29 additional CargoBeamer transfer facilities, or € 1.3 billion in 38 additional crane terminals for the UCT, against € 14-20 billion for 7,000 km of overhead power lines on motorways. The high investment in the "overhead power line truck" scenario would generate an annual operating and financing cost of € 1.5 billion per year. According to the Swiss researchers, these costs outweigh the benefit by five to six times.

According to Infras, the annual benefit of an environmentally friendly shift of articulated trucks to the rail using CargoBeamer exceeds the annual costs of financing and operation by more than ten times.

Another decisive advantage: Three quarters of the total road haulage freight is handled in Germany and Europe with articulated trucks. Due to the low-loading pan wagon design for truck trailers, the CargoBeamer technology allows truck trailers to be immediately transferred to rail - without any modifications and without any additional investment for freight forwarders and logistics companies. 

The train is open for all trailers.