A truckstop electrification project is using a combination of federal grants and private funding to build truck electrification hookups at 50 locations on five major Interstate corridors, and will offer incentives for fleets to have 5,000 trucks outfitted with the equipment needed to plug in.
Jubitz Travel Center in Portland, Ore, has been providing Shorepower electrified parking spaces since 2008.
Jubitz Travel Center in Portland, Ore, has been providing Shorepower electrified parking spaces since 2008.

During a presentation at the American Trucking Associations' annual Technology and Maintenance Council meeting in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday, representatives explained that the Shorepower Truck Electrification Project, or STEP, is foundd by a $20 million grant from the Department of Energy and another $29.5 million private sector matching funds.

The STEP project is a joint effort between Shorepower Technologies, which provides the plug-in units, and Cascade Sierra Solutions, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving fuel and reducing emissions from heavy-duty diesel engines, primarily along the I-5 corridor.

The study will last about three years, with the report due to the government, participating fleets and the public by May 2014. The goal is to deploy the electric grid technology along eight major freight corridors -- such as I-5 in the West, I-95 in the East, I-20 and I-10 in the South, and I 80 and I 90 in the North. Fifty sites will each have connections for 25 trucks. These may be not only at traditional truckstops/travel plazas, but also fleet terminals, rest areas, distribution centers, ports of entry, manufacturing facilities, etc.

The initiative is starting to recruit fleets to participate; there will be 20 percent rebates on equipment designed for grid power use, such as shore power kids, auxiliary power units that also have a plug-in option, battery-powered HVAC systems, trailer cold plates, refrigeration units with electric standby, etc.

Organizers are hoping this initiative will help solve the "chicken-and-egg" problem that has so far held back truckstop electrification efforts -- truckstops and other facilities don't want to invest in offering the equipment if there's no demand; fleets don't want to invest in the equipment needed to use is if there's no infrastructure. (Although many current users of the system simply run a cord through the truck window to power in-cab appliances.) The program also offers revenue sharing for facilities that participate.

The anticipated charge to use the Shorepower systems is about a dollar per hour, plus a small connection fee. According to the organizers, this is far less than the cost of idling a truck, which not only burns expensive diesel fuel but also leads to accelerated engine wear and premature rebuilds.

Currently, most of the truckstops outfitted with the Shorepower infrastructure in the STEP program are located in the Pacific Northwest. In Kenly, N.C, the electricity for shore power at Big Boy's Truck Stop comes from a nuclear power plant.