Now arriving at the port: hydraulic hybrids

California is continuing to go green, this time at several ports, as it tests the use of hybrid technology on terminal tractors. Port automation provider Kalmar, London, will outfit three terminal tractors with hybrid technology to help the ports reduce pollution.

The company is working on the two-year project with the West Coast Collaborative of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where the terminal tractors will be operated and tested for six months. The hybrid equipment is expected to reduce air emissions by 93%, which equates to 19 tons of nitrogen oxide and 200 lb of particulate matter.

Three tractors like this one will be tested at California ports to determine the viability of using hydraulic hybrid technology to reduce pollution.

Kalmar will conduct the research and development on the $12 million project. It will integrate and test a hybrid-hydraulic system that combines the cleanest available diesel engine technology with components that use hydraulic fluid compression to store energy. It will also test a hybrid-electric system to combine the cleanest available diesel engine technology with an electric motor.

According to Stefan Johansson, vice president of Trailer Handling Product Development, many port and distribution customers have shown interest in combining terminal tractors with a hybrid engine. "Hybrid technology helps reduce fuel consumption, exhaust emissions, and maintenance intervals. In the US, fuel is relatively cheap, but most people believe the cost will rise, therefore increasing the need and urgency for alternative methods."

Hybrid technology is expected to reduce or eliminate emissions during idling, which can represent more than 50% of the terminal tractor duty cycle. As it conserves the energy necessary for braking, the hybrid system is ideal for a machine like the terminal tractor, which operates in a continuous stop-and-go fashion.

The project is part of the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan, which aims to reduce emissions from port operations in five years.

Since the late 1990s, Kalmar has worked at developing more environmentally friendly terminal tractors, including machines that could run on alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas), liquefied natural gas, and liquid petroleum gas.