Natural Gas Powered Long-Haulers To Get A Weight Break?
One of the key reasons that natural gas powered trucks have been slow to enter the long-haul market is the weight penalty of roughly 2,000 pounds compared to a similarly spec’ed diesel truck. Unlike local delivery trucks and a small group of specialized long-haulers, OTR trucking companies rely on getting every pound of payload capacity possible when spec’ing their trucks.
Extra weight of natural gas tanks
Both the House and Senate have introduced bills that would give natural gas powered trucks a 2,000 pound break on the federal 80,000 pound maximum weight limit for five axle tractor-trailer combinations.
“Natural gas is a clean and affordable domestic energy resource that has the potential to drive American energy independence to reality,” said Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, co-sponsor of the Senate bill (S.2721). “This legislation brings the federal regulation for long-haul trucks into the 21st century by giving natural gas powered trucks the ability to compete on the same playing field in the amount of freight it can transport. I am proud to work with (Indiana) Senator Joe Donnelly on this bipartisan bill that recognizes the vast potential of natural gas for powering the next generation of vehicles.”
“Supporting natural gas-powered vehicles is a part of the all-in approach to American energy that we need,” said Donnelly. “While the standards in this bill are currently in place in Indiana, we need to expand them across the country so more companies are encouraged to make the investment in natural gas-powered vehicles.”
Executives from both the trucking industry and the natural gas industry are supportive of the legislation. “Natural gas holds great promise for our industry and our economy, and as such, we applaud the efforts of Senator Inhofe and Senator Donnelly to look for solutions to the challenge of realizing this promise,” said ATA President/CEO Bill Graves.
Leaving aside the mockery this makes of every driver who was ever ticketed for being less the 2,000 pounds overweight, this is a positive move that would support the expanded use of alternative fuels in long-haul trucking. Past experience with similar weight and/or tax exemptions to encourage APU deployment or spec’ing non-required safety systems, however, doesn’t bode well for this newest exemption.
SoCal Trucks Turned Into Trolleys To Cut Emissions
It’s no secret that the Los Angeles basin has some of the worst air quality in the country, largely due to geographic features that predate cars, trucks, and the rest of the industrial revolution by a few million years. Persistent onshore winds that run straight into steep mountains surrounding the basin make the perfect collecting point for foul air, whether it’s prehistoric dinosaur flatulence or present day vehicle exhaust.
Port of Los Angeles
Offshore, that same basin makes for a really nice port, which means that a major portion of ocean freight bound for points in the US makes landfall at and travels through the Los Angeles metro area. While some ocean freight containers go directly to rail lines at the port, a substantial portion must be trucked out of the port, either a short distance to another rail line or long distances to freight terminals anywhere in the country.
As you might guess, this makes for a lot of truck exhaust emissions in a concentrated area right around the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) regulates exhaust emissions in the Los Angeles area. SCAQMD has conducted several projects to address port-related exhaust emissions, including natural gas fueling incentives and buying/scrapping older trucks for newer, cleaner models.
The latest effort from SCAQMD borrows a page from trolley and streetcar systems powered by overhead electric lines. The plan calls for a short length of dedicated roadway where hybrid trucks could draw power from the overhead lines to operate on electricity in the port area and switches to conventional power once away from the grid.
SCAQMD has announced that it contracted with electrical component manufacturer Siemens to install an eHighway system near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The eHighway project will electrify select highway lanes via an overhead line system to supply trucks with electric power, similar to streetcars, while still offering the same flexibility as diesel trucks.
A two-way, one mile-long overhead line will be installed and the system will be demonstrated using different battery-electric and hybrid trucks. Expectations include lower fuel consumption, substantially reduced emissions, and lower operating costs.
Siemens and Mack Trucks are developing a demonstration vehicle for the project. Siemens also is supplying the technology that allows trucks to connect and disconnect from the overhead line system to local truck integrators whose vehicles will also be part of the demonstration.
“As the first and second busiest container ports in the US, Long Beach and Los Angeles can benefit tremendously from the eHighway system, significantly reducing emissions from commercial trucks,” said Siemens Mobility President Matthias Schlelein. “The economic logic of the eHighway system is very compelling for cities like LA, where many trucks travel a concentrated and relatively short distance.”
Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino is happy to see LA taking the lead in new technologies that will be better for citizens, the environment, and the future of transportation.
The overhead line system will be installed on sections of Alameda Street where it intersects with Sepulveda Boulevard in Carson, California. As many as four trucks will be running in the demonstration, making multiple drives per day.
The trucks can connect and disconnect from the overhead line system at any speed, to supply power directly to the electric propulsion motor, or for on-board storage. To offer the same flexibility as conventional trucks, the eHighway vehicles will use an electric drive system, which can be powered either by diesel, natural gas, batteries, or other on-board power sources when driving outside of the overhead line system.
The project installation is planned to begin immediately, and the first truck should be ready to start the one-year demo in July 2015.