Right now, trailers hooked up to semi trucks are entirely freewheeling -- that is to say, there is no method of producing motive force from the trailer itself, it's just along for the ride. But Bosch wants to change that.
Bosch will show off its electrified trailer axle at this year's IAA Commercial Vehicles show in Hanover. By introducing electric motors into a trailer's axle, Bosch believes it can enable all sorts of benefits to the logistics industry, including limited autonomy.
Like passenger cars, an electrified semi axle could be used to recoup energy that would otherwise be lost. The motor can also act as a generator, capturing kinetic energy from a decelerating trailer and transferring that to a storage battery for later use. Bosch thinks it could work very well with a refrigerated truck, which could use the brake regeneration system to power its coolers, which Bosch claims can save as much as €10,000 (almost $12,000) per year.
It could even help power autonomous trailers. Current trailers are at the whim of the trucks pulling them, but if electric motors were installed in the axles, the trailers themselves could handle the last bit of travel from road to depot -- albeit with some help from additional sensors on the truck and around the area. Considering how hard it is to back up a pickup with a trailer, nevertheless a big rig, I imagine truck drivers wouldn't complain if the trailers backed themselves into loading bays.
Best of all, this isn't some far-off tech that'll require trucking companies to drop boatloads of money on a whole new fleet of electrified trailers. While, yes, you will be able to buy electrified trailers as complete units, Bosch also wants to sell retrofit units that will electrify trailers already on the road.