All-electric terminal yard trucks make case for zero-emissions freight handling

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Jake Dake, Vice President of Legal & Regulatory Affairs at Orange EV and Emily Wolfe, Program Specialist with Metropolitan Energy Center, are pictured with Firefly Transportation Services’ T-Series Extended Duty Electric Terminal Truck

Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC), which houses the Kansas City Regional and Central Kansas Clean Cities Coalitions, is excited to announce the deployment of all-electric zero-emission Class-8 yard trucks under a new grant project, “Electrifying Terminal Trucks in Unincentivized Markets.” The project is the result of partnerships from Kansas City to Chicago, with the goal of expanding the use of all-electric yard trucks in the heartland.

Yard trucks (also known as hostlers, terminal tractors or goats) are designed to pull cargo containers and semi-trailers in freight or intermodal yards or at large manufacturing sites.

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They may look small, compared to an on-road tractor, but they are Class-8 trucks, and for good reason—their duty cycle is intense. Yard trucks can operate almost continuously with maximum loads of around 80,000 lbs. between the trailer and tractor.

For big intermodal sites or large-scale factories, that means they operate 16 or even 24 hours per day, and the power they demand means that most run on diesel, a proven technology. 

However, diesel power comes at a cost: huge amounts of diesel exhaust, one of the worst pollutants and a major source of poor air quality. Diesel exhaust is not only a health risk for workers on-site, but it also threatens communities surrounding industrial zones, typically low-income neighborhoods.

Low-speed, high-power operations such as these emit far more soot and particulates than diesel trucks running at highway speeds.

Systematically replacing diesel yard trucks with electric models could boost air quality in and around America’s busiest freight hubs. At the same time, the cost savings from eliminating diesel fuel and maintenance costs make for an attractive business proposition.

The vehicles funded under this grant are designed and built by Orange EV, a Kansas City-based manufacturer of industrial-grade electric vehicles.

Orange EV began working in the market nearly 10 years ago, rebuilding an existing used yard truck into an all-electric model. Orange EV continues to offer remanufactured all-electric yard trucks, but they are devoting more floor space to manufacturing all-new vehicles, each custom-built to the exact specifications of the sites where they will be operating.

As a result, they are the first American company to commercially build, deploy and service 100% electric Class-8 electric vehicles. 

Two of the four electric yard truck placements planned through the project recently took place with funding recipient Firefly Transportation Services. Based in Glenview, IL, Firefly provides zero-emission transportation options to freight yard, port and cargo sites, along with training and site preparation for all-electric operations.

Orange EV also procured a demonstration truck to provide potential customers across the U.S. up to a 2- to 4-month trial period. During the period, demo users can use the tractor free of charge, enjoying better air quality, less noise and lower costs on site.

Additional project recipients are planning all-electric truck placements in the Kansas City metro area and include Johnson County Wastewater Department in Leawood, KS and Hirschbach Motor Lines, a private long-haul carrier specializing in refrigerated and other specialty cargoes. 

Hirschbach will deploy their truck at a client site in Wyandotte County, KS. Prior to this year, Orange EV had yet to deploy one of their vehicles locally. 

“Not selling one of our trucks in our own backyard was a thorn in our side for a while,” Jason Dake, Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at Orange EV, said. “Seeing additional trucks deployed in the metro area through the project is a great feeling, and most importantly, they are helping our community and improving the air quality for Kansas Citians.” 

The MEC grant project is not only about improving air quality and saving money. Another key goal of the project is to gather data on electric truck operations to validate broader deployments of battery-powered yard trucks.

Telematics and data, supported by fleet interviews and operational evaluation, will be analyzed by project partner, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Ultimately, MEC will create a deployment guide based on the real-world experiences of our project partners so fleet operators across the country can access reliable data in support of cleaner, more efficient freight handling.

To learn more about this project or to request the demo truck for your worksite, please contact Emily Wolfe with MEC. This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) under the Award Number DE-EE0008887.

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