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DB Schenker introduces iHub project in Berlin

As part of a series of talks, DB Schenker and its partners today introduced a project in Berlin that examines the potentials and benefits of adding electric trucks to the vehicle fleet of logistics service providers. While, nowadays, forklifts and load movers at logistics centers are usually electric-powered, the majority of logistics service providers have yet to make use of electric vehicles when it comes to long-distance and less-than- container load deliveries.

The iHub project is designed to show in what way an IT-supported system can be used for efficiently managing fleets of diesel and electric trucks. To realize this, DB Schenker cooperates with FRAMO, an electric truck manufacturer from the German state of Saxony, the PTV software house from Karlsruhe, the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI from Dresden, and the Institute for Post-Fossil Fuels Logistics from Münster. Funding is provided by the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.

Electromobility poses particular challenges in the context of logistics activities for less-than-container loads, as this sector needs deliveries to be fast, punctual, and reliable. Since electric vehicles need to be regularly recharged, they seemingly are at a disadvantage compared to diesel-powered trucks. To balance out this shortcoming, a logistics service provider that wants to incorporate electric trucks in its vehicle fleet needs an intelligent management system allowing dynamic trip planning. With this, a transport order is allocated to an electric truck only if this vehicle can perform at the same level of reliability as a diesel truck. This form of management will be performed by the iHub system that is to be developed. While couriers and delivery firms are already using electric vans and small trucks to provide their services, the experiences made by these companies can’t be transferred to the context of logistics.

Considering the issue of limited reach of electric trucks and its location close to the city center, DB Schenker’s branch in Berlin was strategically chosen as the testing site. To carry out the project, three electric trucks with a total permissible weight of up to 18 metric tonnes will be used. While en route and in order to avoid any recharges, the software will calculate the most efficient course for the vehicles. To maximize battery efficiency, their operating data will be tracked online and used for recommending specific courses of action.