A plug-in hybrid electric "terminal tractor" used to move shipping containers and cargo within the port will 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 tractors on a wide scale, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and improving energy efficiency of port operations.
The Electric Power Research Institute 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 SSA Container Terminal on Pier A at the Port of Long Beach for 3 months. 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.
US Hybrid Corp. converted the diesel powered vehicle, which is similar in appearance to a tractor cab, into a hybrid which has the ability to be refueled from the electric grid. As a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) the tractor will be able to move containers weighing up to 95,000 pounds as its diesel counterparts can, 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% to 80% 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% for nitrogen oxides, 50% for carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other criteria pollutants. These vehicles can make a big impact on lowering a port's overall emissions."
The three-month Port of Long Beach demonstration project is part of a one-year demonstration, during which the tractor will also be tested and evaluated at ports in Savannah, Ga., Mobile, Ala., Houston and New York City.