iHUB: EVs or no EVs?

PTV Group is involved in the iHub project: Presentation of the electric van at Schenker Deutschland AG’s office in Berlin.

PTV Group is involved in the iHub project: Presentation of the electric van at Schenker Deutschland AG’s office in Berlin.

How can a mixed fleet of electric and conventionally fuelled trucks be operated in a highly sustainable manner? This is one of the challenges being addressed by the partners of the research project iHub. The aim is to develop and use one platform that ensures efficient vehicle operations and vehicle fleet management. Depending on the request, iHub decides whether a diesel or an electric truck is better suited for the respective route. In this interview, Michael Schygulla, Senior Project Manager Global Research, PTV Group, talks about the iHub research project.

Compass: Is iHub the solution for future fleet management in the field of general cargo logistics?

Michael Schygulla: iHub is definitely an important step towards efficient management of mixed truck fleets. E-mobility still seems to be contradictory to present-day cargo handling requirements, i.e. to deliver the goods quickly, reliably and on time. It is often argued that planning is less flexible when operating a fleet of electric trucks. They need to be recharged, they have a smaller range and can therefore not be used for all transport operations. Although it might seem to be a disadvantage at first sight, it is actually only a matter of proper planning. Mixed vehicle fleets have to be managed by an intelligent control system, which compensates for the disadvantage and allocates transport jobs to the appropriate electric trucks.

Compass: And such a control system is being developed by the project partners?

Michael Schygulla: Exactly. An IT-based platform is being developed for the control of building energy management, charging station management and trip management for the mixed vehicle fleet. The decision in favour of or against the use of electric vehicles depends on the overall situation. So the platform will take into account various parameters such as battery status, load scheduling and distribution route distance. It is linked to a dynamic trip planning tool that provides the hub energy management system with forecasts on the batteries’ state of charge for the vehicles on site.

Dynamic route scheduling takes both vehicles using electric motors and those with internal combustion engines into account. Order data, the state of charge of the EVs and building energy management data are also included in the calculation. Intelligent integration into holistic mobility, platform and logistics concepts is ensured by incorporating building and vehicle data in a dynamic routing and scheduling system which is combined with new vehicle technology.

Compass: How will the system be tested?

Michael Schygulla: During the test phase, we will use a mixed fleet with three 18-tonne electric trucks for the distribution of cargo in urban areas. They will be operated by Schenker Deutschland AG’s office in Berlin. Every single day, Schenker fleet managers handle at least 30 vehicles of all types, including swap bodies, semi-trailers or trailers. Three additional e-vehicles (a 12-tonne and an 18-tonne vehicle as well as a van) will be tested within the scope of this project.

Compass: What is the current status of the project?

Michael Schygulla: We are now in the first phase of the implementation process. The electric van was already presented at our last project meeting at Schenker in Berlin. In order to find out which routes are suited for e-trucks, we first mapped and analysed the current fleet within the route planning environment. As part of iHuB, PTV also develops algorithms for mixed fleets that take all relevant restrictions into account. We are also responsible for the navigation system that is calibrated for the new electric vehicles. After successful integration of all new vehicle types into the system, PTV will deliver the E-Navigator solution that will be tested by Schenker this year.

After completion of the test phase, all results will be transferred to larger fleets. The aim of iHub is to show that mixed fleets offer a cost-efficient alternative to conventionally fuelled trucks. It will help cargo shippers get familiar with e-mobility. And if we succeed in showing the benefits of e-mobility, such as lower carbon emissions and less noise, we will have achieved a major milestone towards emission-free logistics.

iHub – Intelligent IT-based platform for electro-mobile, sustainable and efficient infrastructure and fleet management for logistics hubs.

The iHuB project focuses on the development of an integrated IT platform which combines planning and optimisation of vehicle fleet management and energy management. The combination of the following three technical solutions is the key to success: Intelligent battery management for the optimal use of electric trucks, dynamic route planning and integrated energy management for logistics hubs to ensure cost-efficient recharging at the hubs.

Project management: Schenker Deutschland AG

Project partners: PTV Group, FRAMO GmbH, Fraunhofer IVI und Institut für Postfossile Logistik PFL

Project duration: January 2016 to the end of 2018

The project is funded under the programme “ICT for Electromobility III” of the Federal Ministry of Economy. It is part of the “Digital Agenda 2014 to 2017” and also supports the research objectives described in the Electric Mobility Programme of the German government.