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SmartWay’s STEP to further electric vehicle charging

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Cascade Sierra Solutions is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing emissions and fuel consumption from heavy-duty diesel trucks and a long-time affiliate of the SmartWay Partnership. It has also recently agreed to manage a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant for the Shorepower Technologies Electrification Project (STEP), which is bringing power pedestals to truck stops and assisting truck owners to take advantage of them.

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Over the next two years, the U.S. DOE will invest over $20 million in electric vehicle charging networks and electric standby facilities for over-the-road truckers to reduce the fuel that is burned while vehicles are idling. As every SmartWay fleet manager knows, idling engines for heating or cooling or to recharge accessory batteries wastes millions of gallons of fuel, reduces engine life and causes illnesses directly related to air pollution from vehicle exhaust.

The STEP program will help truck stop facilities provide electric power pedestals and will provide additional funding to upgrade long-haul trucks that will make use of such facilities. The project is designed to jump-start the availability of electrical services to over-the-road truck operators. AC power for cab appliances, TV, computing, medical equipment power and recharging will help improve the driver’s lifestyle, reduce fuel costs and improve the air quality in and around truck stops. It is hoped that this project will demonstrate to what level this kind of technology will change the way fleets plan routes to take advantage of these parking locations and how they will affect driver health and well-being.

Through the grant awarded to Cascade Sierra, approximately 5,000 rebates totaling $10 million will be available over the next two years for trucks based and operating in the lower 48 states. The rebates are for specific idle reduction equipment, trailer transport refrigeration units with electric standby or truck cold plate systems that plug into the power grid. The grants will provide about 20% of the installed equipment costs, depending on the category of equipment.

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In return for a rebate, fleets must agree to have their drivers use electrified truck parking facilities now being constructed at 50 locations across the nation along the busiest transportation corridors. Vehicle usage will be monitored over the next three years to study patterns across the trucking industry and to determine if electrified truck parking offers a viable alternative for reducing exhaust emissions, as well as the nation’s dependence on petroleum-based fuels.

Many fleet managers are surprised at the level of idling that exists in their fleet. By taking advantage of STEP, fleets can save money, comply with idling laws, improve environmental stewardship and retain drivers. With diesel fuel at $3.30, a truck idling overnight can burn $22 worth of fuel. That amounts to thousands of dollars annually. Studies indicate that electrified truck parking equipped facilities offer the highest cost savings to truckers over five years of all idle reduction technologies. In addition, over 30 states have jurisdictions that have placed restrictions on idling, with fines as high as $25,000 per violation and incarceration for repeat offenders.

Drivers generally like the idea of using shore power. Recent surveys show that 95% of drivers would like to use shore power connections. By shutting off their main engine, drivers get a better night’s sleep and breathe easier. Plugging into shore power connections not only gives drivers access to the many comforts of home, but also to necessary medical equipment like CPAP machines that help control sleep apnea problems.

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While the availability of these facilities is still limited, SmartWay fleet managers are urged to keep abreast of the future availability of electrical power to replace engine idling for hotel loads. Using such facilities will help save fleets money and keep over-the-road drivers happy.

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