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.
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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!
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