The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has begun to plan for greater use of electric-powered vehicles and equipment to cut emissions, as ports in California and across the country wrestle with how to curb pollution while maintaining cargo flow.
The authority said it began a series of meetings this week with terminals, other port tenants, and New Jersey power company PSEG to set goals for replacing diesel- and gasoline-powered machinery and vehicles with those powered by electricity. The initiative gets under way as one of the port’s biggest drayage companies, Best Transportation, plans to buy the first electric yard tractors in the port, replacing four diesel vehicles, after a month-long test.
“We have to start planning this,” Sam Ruda, port director at the authority, said of the initiative to pursue electric equipment. “Any time you do projects, at the terminals, berth work and everything, we have to start incorporating” electric components, he said.
That will include creating the infrastructure to power ships stopped at the port by electricity instead of running their engines, known as cold ironing, he added.
New York-New Jersey, similar to other ports, is facing pressure to not only reduce its carbon footprint, but also improve air quality due to the proximity of local communities around the port, including Newark and Elizabeth. The New York-New Jersey master plan for the next 30 years, which was released in July, calls for the port to “incorporate the latest technologies to reduce or eliminate emissions [and] adopt electric and low-energy operations at facilities.”
In line with that effort, the port is working with Maher Terminals to develop and test an electric straddle carrier, although the vehicle has not yet arrived. Best Transportation this month completed the first drayage delivery in the port with a zero-emission electric truck.
In California, electric drayage trucks are in use at the Port of Oakland by GSC Logistics, and the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach by Golden State Express, the trucks’ manufacturer, BYD, announced two weeks ago.
Testing electric vehicles
Tom Heimgartner, president of Best Transportation, said his company tested electric hostlers made by two companies — BYD and Ottawa — and expects to purchase four vehicles. The company in November 2017 put in an order for an electric truck built by Tesla, which is scheduled to go into production late next year. And the company’s delivery of a 14,000-pound container using an electric truck earlier this month — a 36-mile trip from Maher Terminals to Costco Wholesale in Monroe, New Jersey — was part of the company’s evaluation of an electric truck built by BYD.
Electric trucks take between two to eight hours to charge and have a range of several hundred miles, said Heimgartner, adding the company is evaluating how those limitations would fit with its drayage workload.
Yard tractors are less affected by those limitations because they run smaller distances, mainly back and forth between the trucking company yard and the port terminals, with the longest distance being five miles. Heimgartner said the hostlers are coming in after an 11-hour work day — typically making three to six round trips to a terminal and back — with 40 to 60 percent of the power remaining in the battery, which is easily recharged overnight.
While electric hostlers cost three to four times as much as a diesel vehicle, according to Heimgartner, he has applied for money for the hostlers from a fund New Jersey has created for clean-air projects. The fund consists of money from the settlement with Volkswagen over pollution from its diesel cars.
“Right now, the yard tractors will have the biggest direct impact on the port in terms of the environment” in the local area, Heimgartner said. “Because they'll spend their whole life within the port, whereas the other trucks will be on the highway.”