Friday, April 15, 2011

Los Angeles Port Orders Fuel Cell Truck Retrofits

The Port of Los Angeles has awarded El Segundo-based manufacturing firm Vision Motor Corp. a contract worth up to $1.4 million to retrofit more than a dozen port-owned electric trucks with hydrogen fuel cell electric hybrid powertrain systems.

Built as a 2009 demonstration project co-funded by the port and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and designed specifically for short-haul or “drayage” operations, the port's fleet of unique electric trucks were designed and produced exclusively for the port by Balqon Corp.

The heavy-duty electric short-haul drayage trucks – the first of their kind at any port in the world – can pull a 60,000-pound cargo container at a top speed of 40 mph, and have a range between 30 to 60 miles per battery charge. Installed charging stations can charge up to four electric trucks simultaneously in four hours and can also provide up to 60 percent of the charge in one hour to meet peak demands during daily operation.

Under the terms of the deal with Vision the port will initially issue a purchase order for six retrofits, with the remaining nine retrofit orders being contingent on the availability of other grant funding.

The idea behind the Vision fuel cell retrofits is to extend the driving and operating range of the small port-owned fleet of electric trucks that run solely under on-board battery power. The retrofits are hoped to alleviate operating downtime caused by range limitations of battery-only powered trucks pulling heavier cargo loads.

"Vision's technology combines the superior power of an electric drivetrain with the extended range of a hydrogen fuel cell system. This allows for zero emission operations without sacrificing driving range", Vision CEO Martin Schuermann said.

The port staff resolution recommending Los Angeles Harbor Commissioners approve the Vision contract said, "In order to better meet the demands and broad truck application across various types of port operations, each electric truck needs to operate eight to ten hours on a single charge even under the heaviest load conditions, as compared to current operating capabilities at four to five hours under those conditions."