By Susan Carpenter, August 20, 2014
ARSON – A stretch of Alameda Street in Carson is about to look a whole lot different.
Under a pilot program set to break ground in September, one mile of
road near the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will be converted into
a so-called eHighway.
A global first, the system will use overhead wires to deliver
electricity to hybrid freight trucks, allowing them to run on clean
electric, cutting down on diesel emissions.
“Freight trucks, locomotives, off-road equipment and other heavy-duty
diesel, goods-moving technologies are the sector that contributes most
to our smog problem,” said Matt Miyasato, deputy executive officer with
the South Coast Air Quality Management District – the agency tasked with
reducing Southern California’s smog-forming emissions 65 percent from
current levels by 2023.
Heavy-duty diesel trucks like the ones that operate in the ports are the No. 1 one contributor to area smog, he said.
More than 40 percent of the freight arriving in the U.S. through
shipping containers comes into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
About 10,000 trucks then move the freight to rail lines, warehouses and
other distribution centers, Miyasato said.
With U.S. freight transportation expected to double by 2050,
according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development,
reducing emissions is key to meeting federal clean air standards for the
The movement of goods through the two ports affects almost 17 million
Californians and causes billions of dollars in health-related costs
annually, according to the AQMD. In addition to generating ozone-forming
emissions, burning diesel generates particulates that can cause health
problems, such as asthma, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Air quality levels in port areas are far worse than in other
communities due to the activities of trains, trucks, ships and heavy
equipment, Miyasato said.
“Communities in the port areas are shouldering the burden so people
can have plasma TVs in Chicago,” said Miyasato, who first learned about
the eHighway system a couple years ago and was so impressed by the
technology’s potential to reduce Southern California air pollution that
he traveled to Germany to see it in action.
German electrical engineering giant Siemens created the technology to
address the carbon footprint of trucking. It has been operating a test
of the system on an old airstrip in Berlin since 2011. The Alameda
Street system in Carson is the first real-world application of the
It will take one year to build the mile of eHighway, completion of
which is expected in late 2015. Once the system has been built, the AQMD
will run a pilot program for 12 to 18 months “to understand the
viability of the technology and to identify a business model,” said
Miyasato, adding that the eventual goal is to extend the system along
the heavily trafficked I-710 corridor.
Building the one-mile stretch of eHighway will cost $14 million, with
funding provided by the California Energy Commission, the Ports of Los
Angeles and Long Beach, Siemens, L.A. Metro and various environmental
groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.
For the pilot, just four trucks will run on the overhead electrical wires.
When the trucks’ rooftop connectors are attached to the electrical
lines, the trucks run entirely on electricity. When the connectors are
lowered, they run on a hybrid electric propulsion system similar to the
Toyota Prius, only with diesel.
“If you compare the diesel truck to an electrified truck, they are 50
percent more energy efficient and it has zero emissions,” said Matthias
Schlelein, president of Siemens’ Mobility and Logistics Division.
“That’s the key point. If you substitute just a certain percentage of a
road’s trucks, every reduction of diesel trucks with electrified trucks
helps people to get better air.”