How 100 electric trucks could help clean up the ports’ logistics emissions

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is leading a coalition to deploy 100 battery-electric trucks across California, a move aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cutting fuel and maintenance costs.

The agency is touting it as the largest commercial deployment of battery-electric trucks in North America to date. The announcement was made Tuesday at the Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, which runs through Wednesday, Sept. 1.

Some of the trucks will be hitting the road by 2022.

Battery-electric vehicles use chemical energy that’s stored in rechargeable battery packs as opposed to traditional electric cars and trucks, which use electric motors instead of, or in addition to, internal combustion engines. 

The Advanced Clean Transportation Expo in Long Beach, which runs through Wednesday, Sept. 1, drew an estimated 5,000 people on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Gladstein, Neandross & Associates)

AQMD has joined with the California Air Resources Board and California Energy Commission to distribute the regional-haul and drayage vehicles to Southern California logistics providers NFI Industries and Schneider, who haul goods to and from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Daimler Trucks North America and Volvo Trucks North America will produce and deliver the vehicles, with 50 going to each company.

Both logistics firms move freight from local distribution centers and warehouses along the 710 freeway to area rail lines for delivery throughout California and the rest of the nation.

“We’re very excited about this as a company,” said Rob Reich, Schneider’s executive vice president and chief administrative officer. “This is absolutely the future of mobility.”

The call for zero-emission vehicles

The move is in line with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Sept. 23, 2020 executive order that will require in-state sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses to be zero-emission by 2045. Deployment of the trucks will also generate 239 long-term jobs for drivers and service technicians.

The 710 handles more than twice the average Los Angeles freeway truck traffic and accounts for 20% of all particulate-matter emissions in Southern California. The Joint Electric Truck Scaling Initiative, or JETSI, is expected to eliminate 8,247 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, project officials said.

“We are proud to be a part of this historic initiative here in Southern California,” South Coast AQMD Board Member Gideon Kracov said in a statement. “The agency has always been a leader in innovative collaborations that help advance zero-emission transportation and protect the health of our communities.”

NFI is already testing commercial electric trucks in Southern California for port drayage use, according to industry publication FleetOwner. The company currently operates 39 full battery-electric commercial vehicles. They were acquired through government funding and OEM leasing programs for truck manufacturers.

Project funding

JETSI was funded with $26.98 million from CARB’s California Climate Investments Initiative and the CEC’s Clean Transportation Program, as well as $5.43 million from South Coast AQMD and another $41.37 million from project partners.

Reich said Schneider is paying $8.7 million for its trucks and the equipment used to charge them.

“We’re currently running about 200 trucks in our Southern California fleet,” he said. “There will be some growth with the new vehicles we’re getting, but some will also replace existing trucks that we rotate out each year.”

Riech said the first battery-electric trucks are expected to arrive about a year from now with full delivery completed in early 2023. The vehicles will reduce fuel costs, he said, although it will involve a learning process to achieve optimum savings.

“There are a lot variables,” he said. “When you get a large number of trucks you try to charge them at the optimum time, not during times of peak demand when it costs more. It also depends on how much freight you’re hauling. But we also have to match that with when the freight needs to be delivered.”

CARB Chairwoman Liane Randolph said projects like JETSI will help accelerate the large-scale manufacturing of zero-emission trucks.

“Putting more of these trucks on our roads and highways as soon as we can is a primary goal of the Newsom administration, and crucial to cleaning up the air in communities adjacent to our ports and along the highways now crammed with diesel-powered trucks,” she said.