Clean trucks for clean ports and harbors

It’s well known that burning diesel fuel emits many harmful byproducts with global warming and negative health effects.  CARB studies show that diesel particulate matter contributes to premature death, lung cancer, decreased lung function in children, chronic bronchitis, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, asthma, respiratory symptoms, and is a potent global warming agent.   Diesel vehicles are in wide use, and in the U.S. they are primarily used in large vehicles, busses, trucks, ships, and trains.

Ports have a high concentration of diesel burning vehicles and high rates of disease in the vicinity.  The Port of Los Angeles has developed a Clean Air Action Plan and has proposed a Clean Trucks Program.  The concept is to use fees to encourage phase-out of “old” trucks in favor of new presumably cleaner trucks. Their list of approved truck options includes those with “clean diesel” and LNG engines.  According to their white paper on LNG trucks, compared to “the average 1995 model year drayage truck” a clean diesel truck achieves an 82% reduction in nitrogen oxides emissions while an LNG truck achieves an 86% reduction.  LNG trucks have a higher cost than diesel, and as a result they are targeting a mix of diesel and LNG trucks.

Every port is going to have the same pollution issue from a concentration of ships and trucks.  The status of efforts in a few ports are:

  • The Port of Oakland has a program similar to the one in Los Angeles.
  • The Port of Tacoma does not have a truck replacement program.  They are encouraging the use of low sulfur fuels, and interestingly are using an on-dock rail system to minimize the concentration of trucks in the port.
  • The Port of Virginia simply has a statement of certification with applicable environmental laws and regulations.
  • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey apparently does not have an environmental plan.
  • In the Boston area, Massport has an environmental plan that is apparently focused primarily on Logan Airport.

Clean diesel primarily refers to ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD). The particulate matter comes from sulfur in the fuel, and removing the sulfur in the refining process keeps it from being burned and becoming particulate matter in the air.   It’s expected that by December 1, 2010 all diesel for highway use will be ULSD.   Various diesel particulate filters are also added to trucks to mitigate emissions.

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Biodiesel is also a clean diesel has a low sulfur content resulting in particulate production around 50 percent less than fossil-sourced diesel.  Considering the total effect of biodiesel use has to consider the whole production process including emissions from growing, transporting and processing feedstock, emissions from change in land use, efficiency compared to fossil-sourced diesel, tailpipe emissions compared to fossil-sourced diesel, etc.  These issues are still a matter of research.

LNG is natural gas that has been liquified.  The process involves removing some components from natural gas, then compressing and freezing it to super cold temperatures.  The process requires a lot of energy which adds expense and emissions to the use of LNG.  Often the natural gas used to make LNG would otherwise be flared.  While the environmental performance of LNG is worse than straight natural gas, it is better than fuel oil or coal.

Electric trucks are also in development.  Due to limited range electric trucks are being targeted for use in limited range situations such as within ports, or around town deliveries.  The Balqon Corporation makes a range of trucks and are explicitly targeting use at ports facilities.  One of their trucks is capable of hauling 30 ton cargo loads.  Electrorides makes a truck based on the Izusu NPR, it can travel on most roads, haul 5 tons, and travel up to 65 miles.  Smith Electric Vehicles is an English company with a long history of making electric trucks.  They recently announced a US assembly plant in Kansas City, Missouri, with production due to begin in third quarter of 2009.

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About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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