First U.S. eHighway Electrified Trucks Running In California

November 9, 2017

The future is looking somewhat similar to the past as three commercial trucks attached to what look like electric trolley-car lines are running along a one mile zero-emission eHighway in Carson, California, near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Watch the video.

Siemens and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD - the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles) in California are conducting tests of Siemens technology that electrifies the trucks on select highway lanes via an overhead catenary system.  

One battery-electric truck and a clean natural-gas hybrid-electric truck developed by TransPower, and a Mack diesel- hybrid truck are now driving on the catenary system on the north and south- bound lanes of South Alameda Street from East Lomita Boulevard to the Dominguez Channel in Carson. This catenary system supplies the trucks with electric power, similar to how some trolleys or streetcars are powered on city streets.

The demonstration system features an overhead contact line that makes power available to trucks along the road and an active pantograph located on top of the eHighway trucks that transfers energy from the overhead lines to the truck’s electric motors, allowing the truck to operate with zero emissions while on the catenary system.

The pantograph (the jointed framework that conveys current to the vehicle from overhead wires) can connect and disconnect automatically with the contact line via a sensor system while the trucks are moving. This allows the eHighway trucks to easily switch lanes or pass other vehicles without being permanently fixed to the overhead systems like a streetcar.

The contact line system s designed as a two-pole system to handle power in-feed and out-feed because, unlike rail technology, the current return circuit cannot flow via the road.

A power supply station located near the eHighway site provides power to the overhead contact lines and can be equipped to collect energy from braking vehicles, called regenerative braking. This energy can then be fed back to other vehicles or the grid, Speeds can reach 60 mph.

Siemens says the increased efficiency of the trucks' electric motors use just half of the energy needed to move the same load using other power sources such as diesel fuel.

To further ensure the same flexibility as conventional trucks, the eHighway vehicles use an electric-hybrid drive system, which can be powered either by diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), battery or other on-board energy source, when driving outside of the catenary lines.

The system also allows for truck operation outside of the electrified sections of infrastructure.

The system is expected to lower fossil fuel consumption, reduce truck operating costs, substantially reduce smog-forming, toxic and CO2 emissions, and help accommodate the growing reliance on freight transportation. The goal is to demonstrate the eHighway system in truck operations in an urban setting and prepare applications for larger scale initiatives in the future.

In June 2016, Siemens launched the world’s first eHighway system on public roads in Sweden. The eHighway is running on a two-kilometer section of the E16 highway north of Stockholm through 2018.

“This project will help us evaluate the feasibility of a zero-emission cargo movement system using overhead catenary wires,” said Wayne Nastri, SCAQMD’s executive officer. “This demonstration could lead to the deployment of eHighway systems that will reduce pollution and benefit public health for residents living near the ports.”

“Every day, Americans rely on the goods and services that are carried by freight. But with that mode of transportation predicted to double by 2050, only one-third of this additional travel can be handled by trains despite expansion of rail infrastructure. Experts expect global CO2 emissions from road freight traffic to more than double by 2050,” said Andreas Thon, head of Turnkey Projects & Electrification, North America.

“This electrified truck system can modernize the existing infrastructure using the latest technology to accommodate the growing amount of freight travel, reduce harmful emissions, and keep these ports, one of our country’s major economic drivers, competitive.”

The $13.5 million project is funded by $2.5 million from SCAQMD, as well as $4 million from a settlement with China Shipping, $3 million from the California Energy Commission, $2 million from the Port of Long Beach and $2 million from LA Metro. In addition, Siemens provided a $1.3 million in-kind contribution. SCAQMD is providing an additional $2.1 million and the US EPA is providing $500K for the TransPower contract.