Universities’ research aims to make railroads climate resilient

Read the full story at Freight Waves.

California wildfires that closed down portions of the Union Pacific and BNSF train networks for days. Severe flooding in the Midwest that damaged tracks. The extreme cold temperatures of Texas in February 2021 that caused considerable service disruptions on the freight rail system.

While the rail industry is accustomed to seasonal disruptions such as winter blizzards, the possibility of even more extreme weather events as a result of climate change takes disruption threats to a new level. Furthermore, these extreme weather interruptions come at a time when the height of the COVID-19 pandemic showed how vulnerable the supply chain can be. 

“Extreme weather and heat and their aftereffects can have catastrophic impacts,”  Karen Philbrick, executive director of San Jose State University’s Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), told FreightWaves. “It threatens lives, destroys equipment, disrupts service and literally costs billions of dollars for response and recovery to the transport sector in the communities served. And so when I think about freight, for example, we’re already in such a crisis when it comes to the supply chain. If that were to further be disrupted because of different climate-related events then that just exasperates the problem further.”

With this in mind, Philbrick’s organization is seeking to address how the U.S. passenger and freight rail network can become climate resilient. 

Google ‘airbrushes’ out emissions from flying, BBC reveals

Read the full story from the BBC.

The way Google calculates the climate impact of your flights has changed, the BBC has discovered. Flights now appear to have much less impact on the environment than before. That’s because the world’s biggest search engine has taken a key driver of global warming out of its online carbon flight calculator.

Float your carbon free boat: Solar-powered service aims to revolutionize recreational boating

Read the full story at Centered.

As fall progresses and the cold Midwest winter approaches, boating might not be top-of-mind. But here’s something to look forward to when the weather is favorable: a new “carbon-free shared recreational boating service” in Saugatuck, Michigan.

Last year, the founders launched startup Lilypad after toying around with the concept for years. Users rent six-person, low-speed watercraft that operate on solar power, with lithium-ion phosphate batteries for reserve power. The idea is to give more people easy, affordable access to Michigan’s waterways while reducing traditional watersports’ carbon impact.

Beyond passenger cars and pickups: 5 questions answered about electrifying trucks

Trucks line up to load and unload at the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, California. Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

by Daniel Sperling, University of California, Davis; Lewis Fulton, University of California, Davis; Marshall Miller, University of California, Davis, and Miguel Jaller, University of California, Davis

As part of its effort to reduce air pollution and cut greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, California is pursuing aggressive policies to promote clean trucks. The state already requires that by 2035, all new cars and other light-duty vehicles sold in the state must be zero emission. Its powerful Air Resources Board has adopted rules requiring that most trucks be zero emission by 2035, and is now proposing that all trucks sold by 2040 must be zero emission. The Conversation asked a panel of transportation experts from the University of California, Davis what’s involved in such a rapid transition.

1. Why is California targeting medium- and heavy-duty trucks?

Although diesel engines are valuable for moving heavy loads, they also are major polluters. Diesel trucks account for one-fourth of greenhouse gas emissions and about half of conventional air pollution from transportation in U.S. cities.

Pollutants in diesel exhaust include nitrogen oxides, fine particulates and numerous cancer-causing compounds. Since many disadvantaged communities are located near highways and industrial centers, their residents are especially affected by diesel truck pollution. Two regions in California – the Central Valley and Los Angeles-Long Beach – have some of the dirtiest air in the U.S., so the state has placed particular emphasis on cutting diesel use.

Almost all diesel fuel in the U.S. is used in trucks, not in passenger vehicles.

2. Are zero-emission trucks ready to go?

To a degree, yes. Some new models, mainly powered by batteries but some by hydrogen fuel cells, are available on the market, and more are being announced almost daily.

But the production volumes are still small, and there are many variations of truck models needed for very diverse applications, from delivering mail locally and plowing snow to hauling goods cross-country. Many of these needs cannot be met with currently offered zero-emission trucks.

Another hurdle is that new electric truck models have higher purchase prices than comparable diesel trucks. However, as the market for zero-emission trucks grows, economies of scale should bring these costs down significantly. We already see this happening with zero-emission cars and light-duty trucks.

The total cost of ownership for zero-emission trucks, which includes the purchase price, fuel costs and maintenance, is already competitive in some applications with conventional diesel trucks. One example is trucks used for local goods delivery by companies like Amazon, UPS and FedEx. This stage is also known as last-mile delivery – getting a product to a buyer’s door.

These trucks are typically driven less than 150 miles per day, so they don’t need large battery packs. Their lower energy costs and reduced maintenance needs often offset their higher purchase costs, so owners save money on them over time.

Our studies indicate that by 2025 and especially by 2030, many applications for battery trucks, and perhaps hydrogen fuel cell trucks, will have competitive or even lower total costs of ownership than comparable diesel trucks. That’s especially true because of California subsidies and incentives, such as the Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project, which reduces the cost of new electric trucks and buses. And the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard greatly reduces the cost of low-carbon fuels and electricity for truck and bus fleets.

A man in a white shuttle bus painted with branding and '100% Zero Emission.'
Zeem Solutions CEO Paul Gioupis poses in one of his company’s vehicles. Zeem, based in Inglewood, California, rents fleets of zero-emission trucks, vans and shuttle buses to other companies for a flat monthly fee. Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

The market in California is already reacting to these policy signals and is developing quickly. In the past year, there has been a large increase in sales of last-mile electric delivery trucks, and companies have stepped up their pledges to procure such vehicles.

Over 150 zero-emission truck models are commercially available and eligible for state incentive funding. They range from large pickup trucks to heavy-duty tractor units for tractor-trailer combinations.

3. Is there enough charging infrastructure to support all these vehicles?

Providing near-zero-carbon electricity for EVs and hydrogen for fuel cells, and expanding charging and hydrogen refueling infrastructure, is just as important as getting zero-emission trucks on the roads.

Fleet owners will need to install chargers that can charge their battery-powered trucks overnight, or sometimes during the day. These stations may require so much power that utilities will need to install additional hardware to bring electricity from the grid to the stations to meet potentially high demands at certain times.

This video from the utility Southern California Edison shows some of the steps involved in electrifying medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleets.

Fuel cell trucks will require hydrogen stations installed either at fleet depots or public locations. These will allow fast refueling without high instantaneous demands on the system. But producing the hydrogen will require electricity, which will put an additional burden on the electric system.

Presently there are few public or private charging or hydrogen stations for truck fleets in California. But the California Public Utility Commission has allowed utilities to charge their customers to install a significant number of stations throughout the state. And the U.S. Department of Energy recently allocated $8 billion for construction of hydrogen hubs – networks for producing, processing, storing and delivering clean hydrogen – across the country.

Despite these efforts, the rollout of charging and hydrogen infrastructure will likely slow the transition to zero-emission trucks, especially long-haul trucks.

4. Who would be affected by a diesel truck ban?

California’s rules will affect both truck manufacturers and truck users. The state’s Advanced Clean Trucks rule, adopted in 2020, requires the sale of increasing percentages of zero emission trucks starting in 2024. By 2035, 40% to 75% of all trucks, depending on the truck type, must be zero emission.

A new proposal scheduled for adoption in early 2023, the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, would require fleets with over 50 trucks to purchase an increasing number of zero-emission trucks over time, with the requirement that all truck sales and purchases be zero emission by 2040.

These two policies would work together. The Advanced Clean Trucks rule ensures that zero-emission trucks will become available to fleets, and the Advanced Clean Fleets rule would give truck manufacturers confidence that the zero-emission trucks they produce will find buyers.

These two rules are the most ambitious in the world in accelerating a transition to zero-emission trucks.

5. Are other states emulating California?

Yes, there is strong interest in many other states in electrifying trucking. Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have already adopted the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, and others are in the process of doing so. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have agreed to work together to foster a self-sustaining market for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

We expect that transitioning to zero-emission truck fleets will require strong policy support at least until the 2030s and perhaps longer. The transition should become self-sufficient in most cases as production scales up and fleets adapt their operations, resulting in lower costs. This could be soon, especially with medium-duty trucks.

Converting large long-haul trucks will be especially challenging because they need large amounts of onboard energy storage and benefit from rapid refueling. Fuel cell systems with hydrogen may make the most sense for many of these vehicles; fleets will ultimately decide which technologies are best for them.

The transition to zero-emission trucks will be disruptive for many fleets and businesses, and will require government support during the early years of the transition. Overall, though, we believe prospects are bright for zero-emission trucking, with enormous clean air and climate benefits, and eventually, cost savings for truck owners.

Daniel Sperling, Distinguished Blue Planet Prize Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Founding Director, Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis; Lewis Fulton, Co-director, STEPS (Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways), University of California, Davis; Marshall Miller, Senior Development Engineer, institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, and Miguel Jaller, Associate Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Oakland tests electric transit buses for resilience in vehicle-to-building pilot

Read the full story at Smart Cities Dive.

The city of Oakland, California, will be the site of a vehicle-to-building pilot analyzing how zero-emission transit buses can maintain critical loads during emergency conditions, project participants announced Tuesday.

Funded by the California Energy Commission, the “powerhouse green energy project team” involves the city, Oakland-based public transit agency AC Transit, the Center for Transportation and the Environment, The Mobility House, New Flyer, Schneider Electric, and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, or WOEIP.

Mississippi River drought is pushing soybean shippers to Texas

Read the full story from Bloomberg.

The shrinking Mississippi River has hobbled the most efficient channel for moving US soybeans onto world markets, prompting a pivot to alternatives from Puget Sound to Texas to the Great Lakes.

Typically, more than half of all US soybean exports traverse the Mississippi River but after weeks of scant rainfall, water depths have dwindled, raising barge costs to an all-time high. As a result, ports in places like southeast Texas that normally handle less than 5% of the nations soybean exports are being thrust into action.

Calculating the cost of electric heavy-duty truck charging

Read the full story at Centered.

As Midwest manufacturers work to electrify heavy-duty vehicles, a big challenge remains: how to charge them. 

The trucking industry makes up about one-quarter of the country’s transportation emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Equipment manufacturers including Illinois-based Navistar have developed, or are in the process of developing, commercial electric vehicles to reduce this impact. Charging stations that serve commercial vehicles are starting to pop up in places like Michigan, and five states formed the Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Coalition last year to accelerate vehicle electrification and charging infrastructure development, especially for fleets.

Amtrak shuts down its second-busiest corridor due to coastal erosion, again

Read the full story at Motherboard.

Amtrak has once again suspended train service along the second-busiest rail corridor in the country due to the human impact on coastal erosion. Pacific Surfliner service between San Diego and Los Angeles has been severely impacted, with canceled trains and replacement bus service between Irvine and Oceanside due to coastal erosion in San Clemente where the tracks run right along the coast. The changes were announced Friday, about three weeks before a planned service expansion, and are in effect “until further notice.”

Minneapolis is the latest US city to demand emissions-free shipping

Read the full story from Grist.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, became the third U.S. city to endorse a carbon neutrality goal for shipping last week, joining the California cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach in unanimously passing a so-called “Ship It Zero” resolution.

Small companies can make a big difference in reducing emissions for last-mile logistics

Read the full story in the American Journal of Transportation.

In North America, the transportation sector has been identified as the single largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, at 28%. The logistics sector impacts nearly every other business and industry, by means of supplying essential goods, transporting raw materials, storing goods, and providing last-mile delivery.

Logistics software provider CartonCloud’s CEO Vincent Fletcher said for companies wishing to reduce emissions and meet their own carbon targets, they must be able to show full visibility across their entire supply chain — including each touchpoint from various logistics providers— which means entering the world of digitalization for many smaller providers.