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Port of Los Angeles and South Coast Air Quality Management District Introduce Heavy-Duty Electric Drayage Truck

The Nautilus E-30 electric drayage truck.

The Port of Los Angeles and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) introduced an all-electric heavy-duty short-haul drayage truck—the first of its kind—that can pull a 60,000-pound cargo container at a top speed of 40 mph, and has a range of 60 miles on a single charge unloaded and 30 miles loaded during an 8 hour shift. (Earlier post.)

Built by Balqon Corp. as a demonstration project co-funded by the Port and SCAQMD, the Nautilus E-30 features a 336V 140 kWh lead-acid battery pack and is the result of nearly a year of development and testing.

An 80 kW fast charger enables a four to six hour charge time, with a one-hour charge to 60% of capacity.

An overall calculation of net emissions reductions still needs to be performed in order to take into account the emissions created in the generation of electric power used to charge the truck’s batteries. However, based on the average emissions generated by the existing fleet of drayage trucks that serve the San Pedro Bay ports, Port of Los Angeles staff estimated the average pollution discharge generated by the estimated 1.2 million truck trips that occurred in 2006 between the ports and a local near-dock rail yard (the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility or ICTF).

If those 1.2 million truck trips were to be made with zero emission electric trucks, an estimated 35,605.6 tons of tailpipe emissions would be eliminated, including: 21.8 tons per year of diesel particulate matter (DPM), 427.7 tons per year of localized nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, 168.5 tons per year of carbon monoxide (CO), and 34,987.6 tons per year of carbon dioxide (CO2).

On a kilowatt hour of energy cost-basis, this electric truck costs roughly 20 cents a mile to operate. On a per-mile cost-basis, a common diesel truck could cost anywhere from four to nine times as much, depending on fluctuating fuel costs and actual duty-cycle activity (100% duty cycle equals zero percent truck idling).

As a partial consideration of the Port providing the first sizeable production order with Balqon Corporation, the truck manufacturer, Balqon will provide a royalty payment of $1,000 to the Port for each vehicle it sells or leases worldwide.

An initiative of the Port’s Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), the development and demonstration of the electric truck by Santa Ana-based Balqon Corporation was funded jointly by the Port and SCAQMD at a total cost of $527,000. Balqon, which has extensive experience in the development of heavy-duty electric trucks and buses, plans to begin manufacturing the electric trucks for the Port and other customers in the Harbor area.

The initial demonstration unit was delivered to the Port in January for performance testing of speed, range, payload and charging capabilities. It was tested with a fully loaded container weighing 68,000 lbs. There were no operational failures and the truck’s performance exceeded expectations in many aspects.

In addition to the next phase of on-road testing, the truck will be tested at a Port of Los Angeles cargo container terminal as a zero emissions alternative to fossil fuel-powered yard tractors, or hostlers. /p>

Last month, the Los Angeles Harbor Commission approved the production of 20 electric hostlers following the successful completion of the cargo terminal tests. The 20 hostlers, expected to cost $189,950 each, will be deployed in the Port as part of a “green terminal” program.

The green terminal program will also include the production of five on-road electric trucks at a cost of $208,500 each. Balqon will work with the Port and Department of Transportation to obtain the appropriate certification for on-road use. In total, the Port is investing more than $5.6 million to demonstrate the viability of electric drayage trucks.



The progressive electrification of transport continues apace. Niche applications first... eventually to a car you can drive off the dealer's lot.


I'm still waiting for a Li-Ion BELT (Battery Electric Lawn Tractor) to be announced.

Ryan K

Forget the lawn tractor - I'm waiting for a Li-Ion push mower capable of doing half an acre with some semblance of a self-propel mechanism. The current battery powered lawnmowers on the market just don't cut it!


Did my eyes deceive me? Did they say Lead-acid? The short life would be a killer. I'd think an altair bat would be better for this application.


All stop/start apps should go battery first, and as the technology matures, it should trickle down to ordinary cars for urban use, finally all cars.

It doesn't have to go all the way to full EVs for everyone, but some degree of hybridization would help.


It's use sort of reminds me of the hybrid diesel train engine for use in the yard. Sort distance intensive use. Good for them. Lead acid battery tech is very off the shelf cheap. Also in yards like this, the maintenace shops always have chargers working on something. Now they can charge spares for quick switches for large trucks as well as for forklifts.


yeah, lead-acid seems like a real downer here. a "fast" charge of 4-6 hours? come on...


The "fast" charge probably refers to the charger power; that thing is carrying a 140 kWh battery pack, after all.

I don't see why the battery couldn't be mounted above the frame rails, behind the cab (maybe it's a structural requirement of drayage trucks I don't understand).  If this was done, batteries could be swapped and charged off-line.

Stan Wellaway

No doubt about it, the future of road transport is electric, and we are on our way there.

The pieces are coming together like in a jigsaw puzzle.

There are now more than 25 million electric bicycles in the world, and over 10,000 electric scooters. There are those goofy looking NEVs in the USA, 37,000 of which have been bought. There are high-end electric sports cars on their way from the likes of Tesla, Lightning, and Fisker. Plus electric dragsters outperforming allcomers. There are electric buses. Roadgoing electric delivery trucks in sizes from 2ton to 12ton from and are already in service in their hundreds with parcel firms and supermarket chains.

These form the corners and the edges of the jigsaw puzzle - and we are starting to see how the main middle ground of that picture might look, with carmakers Nissan, Renault, Subaru, Mitsubishi, BMW, VW-Audi and others all shaping up to bring affordable massmarket cars to the showrooms in the next 2-7 years.

Hundreds of millions of dollars and massive amounts of effort are now being poured into developing better batteries. The race is on.

I expect half the population to be driving electric cars within 5 years or so - including some of those headshakers who currently can't see it happening.

It's happening.

John Taylor

@ Stan ... nice overview of the way bits fit into our future.
A yard work shunt truck using led acid batteries soon becomes a road truck with Li batteries.

The big switch to battery electric transportation is underway. It is a huge step towards a clean future.
Our next task will be to clean up the electric grid, and we answer my friend this change also is blowin' in the wind.

The Scoot

Five years and half the population is far too optimistic for me. Most cars last for 13 years or so, and the average age of cars is eight years. That means we may see a dramatic fleet change STARTING in five years, but to expect HALF of the population in electrics is REALLY optimistic, if not demographically and statistically improbable.

Stan Wellaway

I did say "..or so"

Tricky to pin down what or-so means!

OK, make it 5-7 years then ;o)

But seriously - I do think there will come a tipping point, rather than a gradual switch over. And I think people will be stunned at how fast the sales of combustion engined vehicles will suddenly plummet. New vehicles that is. The residual value of older ones will likewise drop mighty fast - and I accept that this probably means that people owning those will hang onto them longer simply because they would get so little for selling them or trading them in. So I expect a lengthy tail among older combustion engined vehicles.

But with new vehicles I think the economics will swing it. At present the cost of batteries with decent performance is offputtingly high. But the cost of producing the myriad of parts in an i.c.e car is creeping up and up at present. About 3-4 years from now I expect a crossover point when i.c.e cars become dearer to make than equivalent electric ones. They are already cheaper to fuel and to service.

stas peterson

It is increasingy plain that your forecasts are spot on except for the timeframe.

You did point out that the residual values of ICE autos will decline drastrically as the capital costs (purchase price) changes froma price premium to a lower price for electric vehicles.

But I have opined that petroleum prices are slated for a plummet about that timeframe. The cartelistic pricing commanded by Oil Sheiks and Commissars will force them to stop at nothing to get the last dollar possible for thier oil before being overthrownin the collapse of their economies. They will force a petroleum price collapse that regenerates sales of ICE transport vehicles for a while.

This will help mass marine and aviation Treansport as well as some residual Ground transport based on ICE/diesels. The equilibrium end point liely will be a combined fleet of both, with roughly matching operating and capital costs.

Petroleum demand due to needs for marine and avaition as well as petrochemical feedstocks and things like asphalt, will never shrink to zero. But it will probably fall to 20-30% of present demand, a level of reasonably easy to meet emissions and long run availability, even if sourced from tertiary sources like biosources, oil sands and oil shale.


The battery box design on this vehicle includes ability to change batteries in less that 3 minutes. Lead acid batteries were used mainly to make it economically feasible to compete with Diesel vehicles. Hope in five years when its time to replace this pack we can change it to Lithium.


Great, now add mandatory power from shore to all ships docked, then you will see some real emissions savings!

Let us not forget that they are saving the real emission, not just the theoretical, well maintained, best-case-scenario emission!



Port of Los Angeles has seven shoreside power berths currently. There are plans for many more in the works up and down the west coast. NRDC in LA did some pioneering legal work to make this happen.

John Battista

The real thing that worries me about the switch to EVs is that it will happen before the new nuclear plants come online. (dozens of them across the US) Lots of places run tight on power, and Los Angeles is way over its power threshold in the summer as it is. If people start grabbing up EVs and the grid collapses one night and no one can get to work it will put a huge hold on conversion. Its for this simple reason I wouldn't get a pure EV for a long time, I've had power go out for 3, 4 days straight. That is just way to long to run on a single charge, at least a hybrid can keep running when the lights go out in the city.



Get you an ER-V... 400+ miles on six gallons of flexfuel. The only one I know of at the moment is the Chevy Volt - from big bad gm.

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