West Coast utilities to figure out how to charge electric big rigs from Mexico to Canada
Thirty-three utilities from three West Coast states have launched a study to assess what it would take to install electric charging stations along the 5 Freeway for long-haul trucks traveling between the Mexican and Canadian borders, they announced Thursday.
Although battery-powered medium- and heavy-duty trucks have barely begun on-road service in a few states, many manufacturers are testing additional prototypes that could expand their reach in one or two years, experts say.
The largest utilities in the West, including Southern California Edison, LADWP, PG&E and San Diego Gas & Electric plus electric companies from Seattle and Portland want to get ahead of the electrification wave by mapping a new highway infrastructure.
HDR, an engineering consulting firm based in Omaha, was commissioned to perform the study, which will determine the number of electric charging stations, where they would be located and the amount of electric power needed from the grid.
“There will be a significant draw on the electrical system,” said Caroline Choi, vice president of corporate affairs for Edison International and SCE, based in Rosemead.
Dave Robertson, vice president of Portland General Electric, said a heavy-duty truck powering station would need double the capacity of a bus charger, which uses about 450 kilowatts. He estimated these would require 1,000 KW. “It is a fairly robust piece of equipment,” he said.
Most likely, the charging stations will be positioned at rest stops along the 1,300-mile Interstate 5 corridor, Choi said during a teleconference. “Charging will be done while they (truckers) are taking their rests along the routes.”
The utilities provided very few details about what the charging stations would look like, how they would work or when electric trucks would be running on the interstate. However, most likely, a truck driver would pull up to a charging unit off the highway, plug in and then wait until his or her truck is charged before continuing on the route.
The study also will examine putting chargers on feeder highways, such as the 10 Freeway in Southern California and the 80 Freeway in Northern California.
Choi said the utilities are working with truck manufacturers and other “stakeholders” to learn how to structure a system of chargers primarily on the 5, roughly from San Diego to Seattle.
A glimpse of the future
Earlier this month, Tesla released a video of a car carrier delivering Model 3 sedans to customers using its all-electric semi-trailer truck, the “Tesla Semi,” first introduced in 2017 in Hawthorne. Meanwhile, Daimler has reported it has 100 electric medium- and heavy-duty trucks already in service.
Tesla Semi delivering cars to customers pic.twitter.com/E9gakQhg9C
— Tesla (@Tesla) April 8, 2019
When asked about a time frame when electric trucks could be delivering goods in California, Oregon and Washington, the utility companies said it could be as soon as a year or two. Regardless, they know that day is coming, and they want to start planning for the charging infrastructure to move trucks up and down the coast with zero emissions, reducing smog precursors and greenhouse gases.
“The market is in a more nascent stage than for lighter-duty vehicles,” Choi said. “We want to get out in front.”
Fully #electric heavy duty trucks! The 25-ton @MercedesBenz #eActros is already demonstrating that heavy delivery & distribution jobs can be done quietly & emission-free. #eMobility pic.twitter.com/7uIk4VHLf1
— Daimler Trucks & Buses (@DaimlerTruckBus) April 16, 2019
Besides locating charging stations, the utilities must also provide power. Scott Bolton, vice president of regulatory affairs and customer solutions for Pacific Power, based in Portland, said the utility is investing in new wind farms and transmission lines to serve new chargers on Oregon’s portion of the 5.
The role of the ports
Seattle City Light also announced it is supporting electrification goals for heavy-duty trucks. Like Los Angeles, Seattle is a port city, and both rely on trucks to move exports from the ports to retailers and ultimately to consumers.
Likewise, utilities in Los Angeles want to make sure the trucks leaving the ports of L.A. and Long Beach are no longer powered by diesel fuel but by electric batteries. Goods movement play key roles in California, Oregon and Washington state economies, the utilities stated.
Locally, diesel trucks along the 710, 60, 10, 91 and 210 freeways emit fine and ultra-fine particulates, smog-forming pollution that lodges deep in the lungs and can cause pulmonary and heart disease, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and numerous health studies.
A switch to electric trucks will benefit communities along these freeways whose residents experience higher rates of asthma, chronic bronchitis and other lung diseases than those who live away from freeways due to breathing toxic vehicle emissions, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
Choi said switching to zero-emission electric trucks would greatly benefit areas most impacted by smog from trucks, including: Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, East Los Angeles and Los Angeles County communities along the 710 Freeway corridor.
The utilities said the study would be completed by the end of the year. The cost of the study was confidential, Choi said.