Transport Industry Drives Emission-Cutting Innovation

The freight transportation industry in California continues to develop technology that cuts diesel emissions and greenhouse gases, and harbor trucking is considering zero-emission vehicle usage.

The Clean Air Action Plan at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has reduced total emissions from trucks, trains, vessels and other sources by about 50 percent since it was crafted in 2006, said Mary Nichols, the chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board.

Although California’s ports and regulators have a reputation of being excessively demanding in pushing environmental measures upon the conservative goods movement industry, the efforts have paid off in cutting edge technologies that are being adopted worldwide.

Nichols noted that the efforts have paid off financially as well. California has attracted the lion’s share of private sector money invested in green technology in recent years. The investments remained strong even in the depths of the economic recession in 2009, Nichols told the California Maritime Leadership Symposium in Sacramento.

Harbor truckers have led all industries in pollution reduction with the introduction of more than 10,000 clean-diesel trucks with 2007 engines or newer. The fleet in Southern California has reduced harmful diesel emissions by more than 80 percent since 2008.

Victor La Rosa, president and founder of TTSI, said the alternate fuel vehicle program continues to evolve. The introduction of clean diesel fuel and cleaner-burning engines was a major step forward.

Harbor truckers then began to use vehicles powered by liquefied natural gas. These trucks reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 20 percent, but they are very expensive, La Rosa said.

TTSI is now piloting the use of an electric hydrogen fuel cell truck. The truck was built by Vision Motor Corp. and has an electric motor built by Siemens. “This gets us to where we want to go,” La Rosa said.

It appears that the truck will stand up to the rigors of harbor drayage, considering the model has twice as much torque as a diesel-powered truck and consumes less fuel. In fact, TTSI believes that over an eight to 10-year duty cycle, it will be 50 percent cheaper to operate, due largely to fuel savings.

Furthermore, it is a zero-emission vehicle. “We can not get any cleaner,” La Rosa said.

In the ocean vessel sector, Advanced Environmental Group continues to refine its AMECS system that captures 95 percent of smokestack emissions from vessels at berth. John Powell, manager of emission control systems, said the equipment, which places a bonnet on the smokestacks of a vessel and sucks the emissions into a shore or barge-based treatment system, is a practical alternative to shore-side electrical power for vessels at berth.

While cold ironing requires vessels to be retrofitted, the AMECS system can be used on many types of vessels, as well as train locomotives, without the need for retrofitting, Powell said.

-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.

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