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Newton eTrailer electric axle
Credit: Trailer Dynamics

Clean Transport

Slashing Emissions From Tractor Trailers: Electric Semi Axles, Renewable Diesel

Anything that reduces carbon emissions and other pollutants from the diesel engines used to haul the world’s freight is a good thing. Electric semi-trailers and renewable diesel fuel are two options.

Moving cargo around creates a lot of carbon emissions. The ships that travel the seas spew massive clouds of CO2, particulates, and sulfur dioxide emissions in their wake. The cranes that load and unload those seagoing monsters contribute their own share of pollutants, while the drayage trucks that shuttle containers around make the surrounding air unfit to breathe. Then many of the consumer goods that keep the economy humming get sent on cross country journeys in semi-trailers pulled by snorting diesel tractors. If there is one area where efforts to reduce the emissions from the transportation sector could score big successes, it is the freight industry.

Electric Semi-Trailers

Newton eTrailer electric axle

Newton eTrailer electric axle, image credit: Trailer Dynamics

China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology and Germany’s Trailer Dynamics have signed a battery supply agreement for a new way to electrify long haul trucks. According to a press release, CATL will develop, manufacture, and supply batteries for the Newton eTrailer, which will feature an electrified drive axle to help cut emissions while delivering freight. The first eTrailers will be available in 2023.

The eTrailer will have a 300 kWh lithium iron phosphate battery with an integrated cooling system. A power density of 155 wh/kg is claimed. The drive axle is rated at 640 kW with 27,000 Nm of torque. It reacts independently to the driving behavior of its coupled tractor and supports it with the help of its integrated electric drivetrain, says the company. Trailer Dynamics claims the eTrailer will reduce fuel consumption by 40% during journeys of up to 500 km. The eTrailer will also feature a number of aerodynamic aids that can be deployed to improve aerodynamic efficiency.

Newton eTrailer aero

Newton eTrailer aero, image credit: Trailer Dynamics

“CATL always provides customers with the most suitable and valuable solution to promote e-mobility,” said Li Xiaoning, head of overseas commercial applications for CATL. “Trailer Dynamics promotes the electrification of road transport with smart and advanced solutions. Together with Trailer Dynamics, the frontrunner of truck electrification, we are accelerating the development and population of European e-mobility. CATL believes cooperation is a milestone in the area of zero-emission logistics for long-haul trucks.”

Abdullah Jaber, CEO of Trailer Dynamics, said, “A high-quality, high-performing durable battery is a central USP (Unique Selling Point) that makes the crucial difference to all other competing concepts in the long-haul industry,” said. “CATL, with its very high-quality components, on our side was a very easy choice we had to make.”

Drop-In Diesel Fuel Alternative

In California, Hunt & Sons, a major petroleum products distributor headquartered in Sacramento, has agreed to become a distributor of renewable diesel fuel from Renewable Energy Group to 12 locations in northern California. Wait, you don’t want to hear about renewable diesel here at CleanTechnica? We feel your pain, but consider this. According to REG, its renewable diesel fuel reduces:

  • Total hydrocarbons by nearly 70%
  • Particulate matter by nearly 50%
  • Carbon monoxide by nearly 50%

That’s a significant step forward while we wait for electric trucks to become the norm. In an e-mail to CleanTechnica, Gary Haer, a spokesperson for REG said, “This agreement positions REG and Hunt & Sons to deliver a cleaner burning, sustainable fuel that immediately reduces emissions within their existing fueling systems and infrastructure. We are proud to work with Hunt & Sons to provide solutions that answer the call of California’s forward thinking carbon reduction strategies.”

Haer claims the fuel consumed through this agreement will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 250,000 metric tons each year. That is equal to 6 million passenger car miles. “Consumers are demanding cleaner, innovative solutions and we are committed to producing clean fuels sustainably,” he says. “REG Ultra Clean provides a simple, cost effective immediate carbon reduction solution for diesel consumers today.”

Renewable Energy Group operates 13 bio-refineries in the US and Europe. In 2019, it produced 495 million gallons of cleaner fuel which resulted in keeping more than 4.2 million metric tons of carbon reduction. The beauty of this is that it is a “drop-in” solution. No new underground tanks, pumps, or changes to truck engines are required. In fact, the renewable diesel has higher lubricity than low sulfur diesel, which helps reduce maintenance costs by allowing engines to run longer and cooler between overhauls.

So what is renewable diesel fuel? According to Government Fleet, “Like bio-diesel, renewable diesel is not a fossil fuel. Instead, it is made of non-petroleum renewable resources such as natural fats, vegetable oils, and greases. It is “derived from waste agricultural products, particularly waste vegetable oils and waste animal fats,” says Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. “As long as we grow soybeans and produce livestock, the waste derived after these products have been processed into food can be refined into a clean, low-carbon fuel.”

Renewable fuels are not the final answer to reducing emissions from freight operations, but they are a step in the right direction. As long as people don’t declare victory over the threat of a warming planet because of an increase in use of renewable diesel, we can celebrate one small step toward a cleaner environment.

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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