EPRI Takes a Look at Plug-in Hybrid Electric Technology for Cargo Operations

Sept. 22, 2009
The institute will be recording performance metrics at the Port of Long Beach; research at airport locations likely in the near future.

The Electric Power Research Institute recently announced that it would be testing a plug-in hybrid electric cargo tractor at the SSA Container Terminal on Pier A at the Port of Long Beach. Responding to increased interest in the technology for cargo operations, EPRI plans to focus on airport locations in the near future.

The hybrid vehicle — which was converted by the US Hybrid Corporation — has an electric motor with a lithium 33-kilowatt battery. The tractor will be capable of pulling loads of up to 96,000 pounds.

The institute will be testing the vehicle at the port of Long Beach for three months, all the while gathering performance data including efficiency, emissions, cost, charging times and fuel reduction. The vehicle will be tested for one year, with testing rotating at additional ports.

According to the institute, the vehicle will not idle its engine when not in use, which will present significant emissions savings. The institute projects that the vehicle will use 3,000 fewer gallons of fuel in a year than a traditional diesel model.

Also, the institute expects that the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle will produce 80 percent fewer nitrogen oxides and 50 percent less carbon dioxide.

According to the institute, the cost of retrofitting a diesel tractor is about $80,000. And, according to the institute’s fuel savings estimates, the projected return on investment is six years.

Hybrid technology has been available and gaining recognition in many industries. The institute has planned on projects specifically geared toward cargo operations at airports.

“Something that EPRI is going to be researching further is the cargo side,” says Andra Rogers, senior project manager of electric transportation at EPRI.

“We are also looking at other types of cargo equipment such as intermodal facilities which will relate to airports and ports,” she says.

Rogers says the institute has not yet done in-depth research regarding the use of hybrids specifically at airports, but says work may be done on the concept within the next six months.

Future Projects with Electric GSE
EPRI has done work in the area of electrification of GSE at airports, working with such carriers as American Airlines. And its research into the electrification of additional types of GSE at airports is still ongoing. According to Rogers, as more issues have been resolved concerning electric equipment, it has opened up the possibility of expanding into nontraditional types of GSE.

“I think that a lot challenges have been overcome,” Rogers says. “A lot of the infrastructure issues have been overcome.

“I would say something that I’m interested in pursuing is electrifying more of the nontraditional electric equipment at airports, such as the APU,” she says. “That uses a tremendous amount of fuel and it’s not something that’s traditionally electrified.”

Other types of GSE that the institute is interested in pursuing in the future are pushback tractors and container loaders, Rogers says.