Two pure-electric vans will work at sites across central England, with one operating at the A14 roadworks, and another being deployed across the East Midlands. The five-month trial will run until August, and will see the vehicles involved in multiple tasks, such as traffic management and lane closures.
The scheme, which is being paid for with Highways England’s £75 million air quality investment fund, is part of a package of measures intended to improve the organisation’s environmental impact. The trial itself is designed to assess whether the vehicles are suitable for use at roadworks in future.
Martin Bolt, Highways England’s corporate group leader, for the Midlands operations directorate, said the organisation was looking at the feasibility of electric vehicles in a bid to improve the air quality in and around roadworks.
"We are actively exploring opportunities to improve air quality for those travelling on or living near our roads as well as reduce exposure for road workers,” he said. “These vehicles help with that and also reduce noise for nearby residents. We are now investigating how widely electric vehicles could sustainably be used across Highways England’s roads."
The trial, which is being carried out in partnership with HW Martin Traffic Management Ltd, sees researchers from the University of Bath collect and analyse data in a bid to scientifically determine which activities the electric vehicles are best suited to. The results will be published in a post-trial report, which will then be used to help decision-makers ascertain the best ways to utilise the vehicles and install charging infrastructure for “major projects”.
Ryan Wood, technical manager for HW Martin Traffic Management Ltd, said the vehicles would play a key role in making the highway maintenance industry more sustainable.
"These two fully electric vehicles are the first of their kind to be used for roadworks on England’s motorway and major A roads,” he said. “Undertaking these trials will allow us to understand first-hand how the vehicles perform while carrying out different tasks and how current charging infrastructure provides a network for their use. Not only are we understanding the real-world performance of the vehicle but also how our drivers adapt their behaviour. This study allows us to continue moving our industry towards a more sustainable future."