Electrification of the transport sector has been pointed out as a key factor for tackling some of today’s main challenges, such as global warming, air pollution, and eco-system degradation. While numerous studies have investigated the potential of electrifying passenger transport, less focus has been on how road freight transport could be powered in a sustainable future. This study looks at Electric Road Systems (ERS) in comparison to the current diesel system. The Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development was used to assess whether ERS could be a stepping stone on the way towards sustainability. Strategic life-cycle assessment was applied, scanning each life-cycle phase for violations against basic sustainability principles. Resulting sustainability “hot spots” were quantified with traditional life-cycle assessment. The results show that, if powered by renewable energy, ERS have a potential to decrease the environmental impact of freight transport considerably. Environmental payback times of less than five years are achievable if freight traffic volumes are sufficiently high. However, some severe violations against sustainability principles were identified. Still, ERS could prove to be a valuable part of the solution, as they drastically decrease the need for large batteries with high cost and sustainability impact, thereby catalyzing electrification and the transition towards sustainable freight transport.
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