Watch Now

Today’s Pickup: California ports become testing ground for electrified highway

Siemens’ eHighway system is being tested between of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles in California. The overhead catenary system supplies electricity to moving trucks.

Good day,

The U.S. has its first electrified highway (eHighway). While not a long stretch, the one-mile catenary system on the north- and south-bound lanes of South Alameda Street from East Lomita Boulevard to the Dominguez Channel in Carson, CA, are providing a proving ground for the technology. Three trucks – a battery-electric truck, a clean natural-gas hybrid-electric truck and a diesel-hybrid truck – are running along the route, moving containers between the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.

The project is a joint effort between Siemens and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The overhead catenary system supplies the trucks with electric power, similar to how modern-day trains operate in some parts of the country. The system also allows for truck operation outside of the electrified sections of infrastructure.

“This project will help us evaluate the feasibility of a zero-emission cargo movement system using overhead catenary wires,” said Wayne Nastri, SCAQMD’s executive officer. “This demonstration could lead to the deployment of eHighway systems that will reduce pollution and benefit public health for residents living near the ports.”

The demonstration system features an overhead contact line that makes power available to trucks along the road and an active pantograph located on top of the eHighway trucks that transfers energy from the overhead lines to the truck’s electric motors, allowing the truck to operate with zero emissions while on the catenary system.

The pantograph can connect and disconnect automatically with the contact line via a sensor system while the trucks are moving. This allows the eHighway trucks to easily switch lanes or pass other vehicles without being permanently fixed to the overhead systems like a streetcar. To further ensure the same flexibility as conventional trucks, the eHighway vehicles use an electric-hybrid drive system, which can be powered either by diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), battery or other on-board energy source, when driving outside of the catenary lines.

The natural-gas hybrid and battery-electric trucks have been developed by Escondido-based TransPower and the diesel hybrid was developed by Mack Trucks, a part of the Volvo Group.

The $13.5 million project is funded by $2.5 million from SCAQMD, as well as $4 million from a settlement with China Shipping, $3 million from the California Energy Commission, $2 million from the Port of Long Beach and $2 million from LA Metro. In addition, Siemens provided a $1.3 million in-kind contribution. SCAQMD is providing an additional $2.1 million and the US EPA is providing $500K for the TransPower contract.

Did you know?

The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to start testing transportation workers, including drivers, for semi-synthetic opioids hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone, as of Jan. 1, 2018.


“The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it’s sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided.”

– The City of Las Vegas in a statement explaining how one of its new self-driving shuttles was involved in an accident

In other news:

Jobless claims rise

The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims in the U.S. rose by 10,000 last week, bringing them to a seasonally-adjusted 239,000 for the week ending Nov. 4. (Wall Street Journal)

Self-driving shuttle involved in accident hours after it begins service

A self-driving shuttle in Las Vegas was involved in an accident with a truck just hours of it began service. Officials said the shuttle’s sensors stopped the vehicle but the truck driver did not, grazing the front of the shuttle. (Market Watch)

EPA formally proposes to exempt gliders from GHG Phase 2

As expected, the EPA has formally proposed the exemption of glider kits from the GHG Phase 2 emissions regulations. (CCJ)

NY to help UPS convert diesel trucks to electric

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority will provide $500,000 to help UPS convert existing diesel package delivery trucks into electric models. (Next-Gen Transportation)

Congressman asks Trump to issue executive order to delay ELD rule

U.S. Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) has asked President Trump to issue an executive order to delay the ELD mandate until at least April 1, 2018. (Truckers News)

Final Thoughts

Siemens is now running a test of an eHighway, using an overhead catenary system to provide electricity to moving trucks using a pantograph. The program, operating between the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, is designed to show the viability of the system. While not a likely solution for long-haul trucking, it might have potential in smaller areas, especially in intermodal yards and ports.

Hammer down everyone!

Stay up-to-date with the latest commentary and insights on FreightTech and the impact to the markets by subscribing.

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected].