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Department of Energy to Fund Zero-Emissions Cargo Transportation Technology

Zero Emissions Cargo Transportation Technology to be Funded by DOE
Zero Emissions Cargo Transportation Technology to be Funded by DOE

While zero-emissions transportation is still a fairly new field, zero-emissions cargo transportation is practically unheard-of.

Cargo transportation, the backbone of which, at least in the United States, is the over-the-road (OTR) tractor trailer and the diesel locomotive, generates millions of metric tons of greenhouse gases. OTR tractor trailers, for example, generated ≈400 MMT (million metric tons) of greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. Diesel locomotives added another ≈48 MMT to the mix. All told, cargo transportation accounts for ≈28% of transportation emissions, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and DOE (Department of Energy) are taking notice.

We have seen some development in emissions-reduction technology regarding locomotive transportation, such as fuel cell and hybrid natural gas, but there hasn’t been a whole lot of development in OTR tractor trailer efficiency. True, we’ve seen some aerodynamic tweaking and even robot trucks, but we need to see some more work in this area if we’re going to reduce that ≈400 MMT of greenhouse gas emissions from the OTR tractor trailer fleet.

To that end, the DOE is offering up to $10 million to further the development of OTR and rail emissions-reduction technologies, specifically Zero Emissions Cargo Transportation (ZECT). The DOE funding is looking toward cargo transportation systems, including OTR tractor trailers and locomotives that run, for the most part of their duty cycles, in pure electric mode. Electric motors need to be the primary motive force, but the energy source is as varied as they come, including overhead cables, onboard lithium-ion battery packs, or hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Considering that cargo transportation, and its associated emissions, continue to rise, ZECT technology will form an integral part to our national cargo infrastructure.

Photo credit: Scania Group / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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  1. LoneWolffe beepee  The role of DOE and
    the EPA is largely to monitor “fair-play”. 
    Though marginally, they can support research in the private sector.  But generally, their creed is to regulate any
    process that will bring harm to the Nation, the environment, and it’s
    people.  But this is only because, we can’t
    trust business to always do whatever is in the best interest of the public
    (businesses are usually first and foremost profit motivated).
    Net Zero, however, is
    still based upon the theory of “renewable” replenishment (sunlight, wind, rain,
    waves, and geothermal heat.
    I believe that
    “Veggie” fuel should be on this list.  Though
    not necessarily an automatically natural renewable, the effort to
    plant, harvest, replant, refine and distribute is economically sound.
     It will create jobs along the lines of the existing, and very successful, “fossil
    fuels” economic model.  Of course, only a small part of the
    production cost will rely on the AC grid, while replanting more than harvested,
    and naturally using sunlight, rain, and the earth (some irrigation in the West).
    Keeping in mind that
    “converting” today’s commercial level diesels from fossil fuels to veggie-fuels,
    will require little-if-any mechanical retooling 
    –  the veggie-fuel refining
    process itself can/will be adjusted dependent upon the correct viscosity for
    each class of diesel engine.

  2. beepee  i’m not sure why the DOE didn’t include net-zero emissions cargo transportation in the mix, because that would be far easier to implement, instead of overhauling every single piece of equipment out there.

  3. OTR Cargo Transportation in the U,S, is actually the “backbone”
    of transportation itself.  The MMT
    generated by Diesel OTR is miniscule when compared the same user models of
    fuels alternative to diesel.  The same
    could be said for OTR’s place against the overall MMT’s by comparison.
    Remembering that existing diesel fuel is less than half the
    octane of gasoline (only 40 octane), almost any emissions will always be less
    than half the emission comparable gasoline use.
    By calculating the overall OTR diesel fuel use, against the
    100% diesel veggie-fuel crop yield (growing, harvesting, replanting, refinery/distribution)
    we could obviate any possible doubt as to the advantages over:  heavy duty or “commercial” electric
    engine/motors;  AC overhead cables;  lithium-ion batteries; natural gas; or fuel
    Further, whenever 100% diesel fuel technology is accepted
    on a large scale, the impact of OTR Cargo Transportation and it’s MMT, still based
    entirely on fossil fuels (as it exists today) will be completely offset.  Keeping in mind that a more aggressive move
    toward domestic EV’s based entirely upon Electric Engine/Motors, fully or
    partially reliant  upon 100% veggie
    fueled diesel generators will relegate oil drilling to commercial use only – to
    be phased-out almost completely one day. 
    Not to mention lessening the impact of lithium-ion battery production
    and disposal.


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