Electric highway could link key California ports, reduce emissions

Wed, 2014-08-27 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Shipping cargo has always involved a fair amount of trucking and a pilot project from Council Associate Partner Siemens hopes to make that part of the journey much more environmentally friendly.

Siemens is building the first electric highway, it calls it an eHighway, which could one day run between the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California. The first step, however, is to build a test track, which it’s doing in the city of Carson, not far from the ports.

The concept is similar to the way that electric buses and trolleys run in some cities. Siemens wants to hang electric wires over the lanes used by cargo trucks, allowing those trucks to be powered by electricity. The trucks would also have diesel engines, allowing them to run even when no power lines are available.

The test track should open early next summer and the pilot project would last for a year. If all goes well, it would start building an actual eHighway between the two ports.

The project could have a sizeable impact on reducing emissions. Long Beach and Los Angeles are essentially located side-by-side in San Pedro Bay and are especially busy. Combined, they rank as the sixth busiest port complex in the world.

Meantime that area, which is home to nearly 17 million people, is also one of the smoggiest in the United States. And 75% of the pollution that causes that smog comes from vehicles. Nationwide, transportation is the second-biggest polluter, behind only energy generation.

The Siemens eHighway trucks would seamlessly switch between electricity and diesel based on the availability of power, and also borrow other technologies from hybrid vehicles, including regenerative braking.

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