Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Plug-In Hybrid Electric Cargo-Moving Tractor to be Tested at Port of Long Beach

12-month project to test performance in U.S. ports
Shipping News Feature

PALO ALTO, USA – A hybrid tractor unit used to move shipping containers and cargo within docks, is to be tested at a Port of Long Beach shipping terminal. If this heavy-duty application of hybrid electric technology proves successful at Long Beach and other ports then it could replace diesel-powered shunters on a wide scale, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and improving energy efficiency of port operations.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is coordinating the project among several ports and will also compile and analyze project data related to the tractor’s performance, including emissions, charging, diesel fuel reduction and other aspects. The equipment will be tested at the California facility for 3 months.

US Hybrid Corporation converted the diesel powered vehicle, which is similar in appearance to a tractor cab, into a hybrid which has the ability to be recharged from the electric grid. As a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) the tractor will be able to move containers weighing over 40 tons but unlike diesels will not idle its engine when inactive. Over a year of full-time operation it is expected that the PHEV tractor would use 3,000 gallons of fuel per year less than a similar diesel and significantly reduce emissions.

“Terminal tractors are the most prevalent piece of equipment at container ports and they typically idle 50 percent to 80 percent of the time they’re in use,” said Andra Rogers, senior project manager of Electric Transportation at EPRI. “It’s feasible that by converting their tractor fleets, ports could reduce emissions from this source by 80 percent for nitrogen oxides, 50 percent for carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other pollutants.”

“One of the central directives in our Green Port Policy is the adoption of new, environmentally friendly technologies,” said Heather Tomley, Port of Long Beach Assistant Director of Environmental Planning. “We encourage private industry to develop, test and evaluate technologies such as this hybrid-electric terminal tractor.” Currently there are approximately 750 diesel tractors at the Port of Long Beach.

The three-month Port of Long Beach demonstration project is part of a one-year testing program, during which the tractor will also be evaluated at ports in Savannah, Mobile, Houston and New York City.

EPRI will document the tractor’s performance and operation including electric grid system impact, vehicle system efficiency, emissions, costs and vehicle performance. EPRI also will evaluate performance and benefits relative to conventional diesel vehicles. The research is part of a broader program EPRI conducts on “non-road” electric applications for transportation, which includes forklifts, airport vehicles and power supply options for ships at dock, airliners at the gate and trucks at truck stops.