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Port of LA and SCAQMD Partner on Electric Tow Tractor Demonstration Project

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Port of LA and SCAQMD Partner on Electric Tow Tractor Demonstration Project -

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Rendering of the electric tractor for the port. Click to enlarge.

The Port of Los Angeles and South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) are working together on a demonstration project to use all-electric tractors to tow cargo containers from the Port to local warehouses and rail yards.

The $527,000 initiative, funded by the Port and AQMD, will explore the feasibility of replacing diesel-powered tractors with ultra-clean, all-electric units.

Under the Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) approved by the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in November 2006 (earlier post), $15 million has been set aside for a Technology Advancement Program. The electric tow tractor demonstration project is the first project to be approved under this CAAP program component.

AQMD has committed $48 million to help replace older diesel trucks in addition to technology advancement projects such as the electric tractor. As part of the CAAP commitment, the Port has committed at least $85 million over the next five years for truck replacement and retrofits.

We believe that transporting cargo containers from the docks to nearby warehouses and rail yards can be done cleanly with heavy-duty electric vehicles. We are excited about this project and look forward to testing this technology in realistic conditions.—Geraldine Knatz, Ph.D., Executive Director for the Port of Los Angeles

The project is slated for three main components, and expected to be completed in about 7 months. The three components of the project are:

  • Develop a barebones chassis to demonstrate on a dynamometer that the battery and motors are capable of the necessary towing performance;
  • Complete chassis for initial road tests; and
  • Demonstration phase.

The basic parameters of the project will be to develop an all-electric tow tractor that will have fast-charging capabilities; a top speed of 25 mph; a range of 40 miles per charge; and sufficient torque and power to tow up to a 60,000-pound container.

AQMD selected Balqon Corp. to develop the vehicle for the Project. AQMD picked Balqon because it offers a completely electric alternative engine, is located in the South Coast region, and can deliver a product in an 18-week schedule. Balqon has extensive experience in design, development, and manufacture of electric vehicles, and has developed heavy-duty electric buses in operation in Hawaii and other locations. Balqon will work with Spartan Truck Company, Inc. on the truck trailers and related hydraulic equipment necessary for the project.

In September 2006, the US EPA’s West Coast Collaborative, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach announced they were collaborating to develop and test hybrid technology yard tractors for use on container terminals.

The hybrid vehicles would use either a hybrid-electric system to combine the cleanest available diesel engine technology with an electric motor, or a hybrid-hydraulic system that would combine the cleanest available diesel engine technology with components that use hydraulic fluid compression to store energy. (Earlier post.)
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