Operations at the Port of Houston, Texas just got a little greener, thanks to the successful introduction of new plug-in hybrid electric terminal tractors to haul shipping containers around the grounds. Think thousands of containers at a typical port, multiply that globally, and you can see the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Terminal tractors – aka “trailer jockeys” – are ideal for crossover from diesel into electricity as an alternative fuel source, because their short travel distances keep them close to on-grid charging stations at all times.
Capacity of Texas and Electric Hybrid Terminal Tractors
Capacity of Texas is the company that developed the new tractors, dubbed the Pluggable Hybrid Electric Terminal Tractor or PHETT (not to be confused with Fett!). PHETTs are capable of operating in full zero-emission mode by using grid-supplied electricity, or they can use a generator to sustain their charge. Either way, the overall effect is to improve fuel economy by 47% compared to conventional diesel tractors. That translates into a big cut in carbon dioxide emissions, as well as carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. As an added green bonus, the the new technology also reduces noise pollution.
Shipping Ports and Greenhouse Gas Emissions
PHETT is part of a much broader effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at shipping ports – an effort that has gained new urgency as global shipping is expected to rise. Among the recent actions are an agreement between the U.S. EPA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to reduce emissions from trucks, which make about 3 million trips in the metro area alone, by phasing out older diesel models. New hybrid electric tugboats are being introduced, too. The private sector is also starting to take up the lead, one example being shipping giant Maersk, which has pledged to reduce its carbon dioxide output by 20% over the next seven years.
Image (altered): Shipping port by keepitsurreal on flickr.com.
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+.