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Power to the people: Truck stop electrification

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Jason Morgan is the content director of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 15 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

We are a power-hungry society. Of course, I mean electrical power. Walk into any coffee shop and you’re sure to find people huddled around plugged-in mobile workstations; glance around any airport and you’ll see people uncomfortably tethered to the closest outlet. Today’s truck drivers are no different—they demand power for their sleeper creature comforts. There’s a growing trend that deserves talking about here—truck stop electrification (TSE).

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The Department of Energy (DOE)-funded Shorepower Truck Electrification Project (STEP) project’s two-pronged program, which recently concluded, developed infrastructure of Electrified Parking Spaces (EPS) for Truck Stop Electrification (TSE), and the installation of idle reduction technologies. The program funded 50 sites along major highway corridors. As of April 2015, there are 62 Shorepower electrified truck stops in 30 states.

“The STEP project has made an impact on idling in areas where sites are available; the core early adopters are independent owner-operators and smaller fleets,” said Mike Bellemore, Idle Free Systems segment sales manager. Bellemore pointed to the latest Department of Transportation report that indicated that Shorepower is the least expensive idle reduction technology. It provided a breakdown of costs:

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  • $4.01 /hour – Diesel engine, idling
  • $1.90 /hour – IdleAir TSE
  • $1.49 /hour – APU under load
  • $1.33 /hour – APU with no load
  • $1.08 /hour – Shorepower TSE

While those numbers are based on $4/gal for diesel, there is still substantial savings to be had. The issue with shorepower is availability. While the infrastructure is growing, it has a long way to go.

That said, it’s a movement that is pushing innovation forward. IdleAir, for example, is part of the Team TSE project, which promotes utilization of all truck stop electrification opportunities, working with Shorepower and other truck stop electrification providers to make electrification readily available. There are currently over 100 truck stop locations that TSE is available at nationally when considering IdleAir and Shorepower’s combined networks, explained Ethan Garber, chief executive officer of IdleAir.

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“Later this fall, IdleAir plans to roll out a new electricity-only package for closer to $1 per hour plus tax like our friends at Shorepower currently offer,” Garber said, highlighting the continuing innovation within the electrification segment. “This new package is especially targeted toward customers with other onboard idle reduction equipment.”

TSE technology continues to evolve. For example, a growing number of STEP locations have receptacles to accommodate 460v reefer systems, like Carrier Transicold’s Vector series units with electric standby capability, explained David Kiefer, director of sales and marketing, Carrier Transicold, Truck/Trailer/Rail Americas, Athens, Ga. Running the refrigeration unit on electric power saves fuel for the highway while eliminating noise and emissions from the refrigeration unit’s diesel engine while the trailer is parked.

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