/ 08.08.2017

Electric Tractor Unit in Test Operation

The HHLA Container Terminal Altenwerder (CTA) is approaching its goal of completely zero-carbon ship-to-rail container transportation. For the very first time, an emissions-free vehicle is also being used for the final stage between block storage and the rail terminal. This is the prototype of a battery-powered tractor unit which runs on green electricity. It was developed as part of a project led by the company Konecranes, with funding from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment and support from HHLA. The electric tractor unit, which has its own battery charger, features a lithium-ion battery with a capacity of approximately 200 kilowatt hours. That corresponds to the capacity offered by the batteries of ten small e-vehicles.

At CTA, the prototype is being used to pull the containers mounted on rolling chassis the short distance between block storage, the empties yard and the rail terminal. These test operations are due to continue until late November. 30 CTA employees and service personnel have already received training in use of the electric tractor unit for this purpose. With immediate effect, a 24-hour-a-day trial operation will be carried out under different temperature and weather conditions to test the effects these have on the battery and drive system that will be used by the tractor unit at CTA for continuous short distances. Another issue under review is whether the energy with which the battery is recharged during the drivers’ breaks is enough for the battery to last an entire shift. A further energy-related acid test for the prototype relates to the fact that constantly changing chassis are coupled and uncoupled at short intervals. 

 “We are very much open to innovations and enjoy trying out new technology,” says Boris Wulff, a Terminal Development employee. “Our experience of e-mobility at Altenwerder is already very positive. Not only is it highly environmentally friendly, it is also increasingly attractive from an economic point of view, due to improved efficiency and reduced maintenance costs. New technologies undergo a cost-effectiveness assessment as well as feasibility testing. Projects must pay off for us, otherwise they aren’t sustainable. If we use an economically attractive electric vehicle between block storage and the rail terminal in future, we will be able to handle ship-to-rail container transportation in Altenwerder completely carbon-free.”