Ready even for heavy duty electric trucks
Until recently, the utilitarian named Oftringen Ost was an unremarkable service area on the A1 motorway. It now has an electric charging station with eight high-performance e-vehicle charging spots. Swiss company GOFAST designed the station to be ready for the future electrification of heavy goods traffic. The project is part of the Swiss government’s electromobility roadmap, which aims to set up fast-charging stations at 100 service areas across Switzerland’s entire road network by 2030.
Working towards the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the federal government, along with representatives of cantons, cities, and the utility and mobility sectors, signed a roadmap promoting electromobility in late 2018. Part of the roadmap involves expanding the fast-charging infrastructure at 100 motorway service areas across Switzerland. The Swiss company GOFAST, which won the tender and was assigned 20 fast-charging stations, has now opened the first of these at the Oftringen Ost service area. The newly opened fast-charging station on the A1 motorway certainly stands out, even though this stretch of highway, between Solothurn and Lenzburg, has already one of the densest networks of charging stations. GOFAST alone operates 26 charging points at eight fast-charging locations along this 60 km stretch of motorway.
Charging station roof produces green energy
From the western approach, the five-metre-high steel roof structure immediately catches the eye. GOFAST wants to provide e-vehicle drivers with shelter from the elements and, in the long term, become a recognisable provider throughout the country. Switzerland’s largest roof for a refuelling station is likely to be a hit among electric vehicle drivers. In many cases, drivers are completely exposed to the rain at charging stations. The roughly 160 m2 roof surface also doubles as a power plant: its photovoltaic generate an estimated 40,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The site runs entirely on Swiss green electricity, as do all of GOFAST’s fast-charging stations.
Fast charging for 40-ton trucks
The fast-charging station has space for eight vehicles to charge at the same time. The HPC charging points, equipped to handle all established connector types, supply vehicles with up to 150 kilowatts of power. Depending on the type of vehicle, the temperature and the battery charge level, e-vehicle drivers can gain another 150 km of range in just 10 minutes. What’s special about this fast-charging station, though, is not just its quick charging speed, according to GOFAST CEO Domenic Lanz. Lanz says its layout is what makes it exceptional. ‘We designed the facility knowing that there will be more and more larger commercial e-vehicles on the roads in the coming years, everything from normal delivery vans to 18-metre long trucks,’ explains Lanz. Sure enough, even a 40-ton semi truck can now charge up at Oftringen with ease. This may seem like a given, but in reality this is simply not possible at most e-charging stations until now.
Heavy goods logistics specialists remain ‘technology neutral’
For now, large semi trucks are among the rarer users of GOFAST charging points, and it is mainly customers with trailers and caravans who appreciate the excellent access. While sales numbers for battery electric cars are rising steeply, the development of e-trucks continues to lag behind. For various reasons, both manufacturers and logistics companies continue to describe themselves as ‘technology neutral’. One reason could be that Switzerland does not yet have a CO2 limit for heavy goods traffic. Another is that heavy goods traffic needs to travel such long distances, and this continues to pose a challenge for the technology in today’s battery electric vehicles. As it currently stands, e-trucks with a proven range of 200 km are mainly suited to predictable journeys, such as waste disposal routes, the final miles of carrying goods from the warehouse to shops, and deliveries between logistics centres, which is how Hugelshofer Logistik AG uses them. Since 2019, the Frauenfelder logistics company has been using a 40-ton battery-electric semi truck in its fleet.
Top efficiency with battery electric vehicles
Battery electric trucks are far from just a vision of the future. GOFAST have again demonstrated this with their fast-charging station nearby in Oensingen. Two or three times a week, an electric waste disposal truck from the company Eggenschwiler Transporte AG charges its battery there to continue its journey. This break for charging is the ideal opportunity for the waste disposal team to take their lunch break at the restaurant next door, VEBO Genusswerkstatt.
The exceptional energy efficiency and low maintenance costs of electric drive trains also make them attractive options from a business perspective, a reason why various major logistics, retail and industrial companies in Switzerland are increasingly opting for e-trucks. The problem with vehicle range should soon also become a thing of the past, as several manufacturers are already planning to launch large articulated e-lorries with ranges of over 500 km in the next two to three years.