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Air Quality The trucking industry goes green with energy harvesters and a new EPA program to replace older trucks

Published on March 10th, 2010 | by Tina Casey

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Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Keeps (Greener) Truckin' On



The trucking industry goes green with energy harvesters and a new EPA program to replace older trucksIt’s a one-two green punch for the trucking industry: today the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced a program with the U.S. EPA to help get rid of older trucks with dirty emissions, and just yesterday the company New Energy Technologies announced another step forward for device that can harvest sustainable kinetic energy from trucks as they, well, keep truckin’ on.

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If you ever grew up on an urban truck route (which I did), the idea of green trucks might seem like an oxymoron but hey if the trucking industry can get their sustainability act together then by golly you betcha just about any major commercial sector can (except for maybe this one).

Trucks, Ports, and Coastal Pollution

The truck replacement program is part of a broader EPA push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in coastal communities along with other forms of pollution, specifically airborne particulates from diesel exhaust.  The focus is on seaports and shipping hubs such as the New York-New Jersey marine terminals.  About 3 million truck-trips are made in and out of the metro area’s terminals every year, and keeping those emissions trending down is an urgent need given that global shipping is expected to increase.  The $28 million truck program includes $7 million from President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  It is expected to replace about 600 trucks from the model year 1993 or older with trucks from 2004 and up, which are up to 98% cleaner.  The Port Authority will cover about 25% of the cost to truckers.  Further steps to get older trucks off the road are also in the works.

Cleaner Trucks and Harvested Energy

Meanwhile, some day soon those cleaner trucks might also be generating sustainable electricity in the form of harvested kinetic energy, simply by rolling down the road.  New Energy is one of several companies that have developed ways to generate electricity by harvesting the energy from movement (or in this case, from the cessation of movement).  The company’s MotionPower (TM) – Heavy device builds on successful test-runs of a similar device that captures energy from cars and light trucks.  The “Heavy” version harvests kinetic energy from the braking action of large trucks when they come to a stop.  The company foresees use of the device at toll plazas, rest areas, and other travel points where energy is normally lost in the form of braking.  Another company, Vycon, has developed a similar, flywheel based concept that harvests energy from cranes at ports and rail yards as they brake while lowering heavy shipping containers.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • juangault

    Trucking is a major area of potential conservation of energy. It’s got to be simple. But saving money could make more complicated, more acceptable. Safety is a big issue too. Anyway, I think DME is the replacement fuel of choice. It can be made from a lot of stuff, but the factories requiring the conversion and manufacturing would necessitate some glaciated wealth of the oil barons to melt. I doubt if they want to cut their own feet off. Another possible fuel to displace the dirty devil diesel is LNG, with a shell of LN2. The idea is to keep the flammable gas cool and comfortable with a liquid inert gas, for long-time storage, and somehow make the whole system explosion proof. Mountain passes, with government paved and paid roads, would be a good choice to test various ideas to capture kinetic energy, obviously promoted and also, eventually operated by the government. Everyone knows the damage to the environment, in noise and stink, of trucks rolling slowly, all day, all night, as they go up and down the obstacles of mother nature. Free ride on a oversized electric train? I think it would work, if the only price to pay, was a 10 or 15 minute delay. Could allow an hour of shuteye too, even during a snowstorm. I Dream on, as I drive.

  • juangault

    Trucking is a major area of potential conservation of energy. It’s got to be simple. But saving money could make more complicated, more acceptable. Safety is a big issue too. Anyway, I think DME is the replacement fuel of choice. It can be made from a lot of stuff, but the factories requiring the conversion and manufacturing would necessitate some glaciated wealth of the oil barons to melt. I doubt if they want to cut their own feet off. Another possible fuel to displace the dirty devil diesel is LNG, with a shell of LN2. The idea is to keep the flammable gas cool and comfortable with a liquid inert gas, for long-time storage, and somehow make the whole system explosion proof. Mountain passes, with government paved and paid roads, would be a good choice to test various ideas to capture kinetic energy, obviously promoted and also, eventually operated by the government. Everyone knows the damage to the environment, in noise and stink, of trucks rolling slowly, all day, all night, as they go up and down the obstacles of mother nature. Free ride on a oversized electric train? I think it would work, if the only price to pay, was a 10 or 15 minute delay. Could allow an hour of shuteye too, even during a snowstorm. I Dream on, as I drive.

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