The 110-volt solution

Aug. 1, 2000
Industry panel discusses alternative to truck idlingTrace Engineering, now part of Xantrex Technology (USA), sponsored a meeting during the recent International Trucking Show in Las Vegas to discuss using AC power instead of idling truck engines to run auxiliary devices. Xantrex is a supplier of high-performance inverter/chargers designed to convert battery DC power to AC to run equipment, electronics

Industry panel discusses alternative to truck idling

Trace Engineering, now part of Xantrex Technology (USA), sponsored a meeting during the recent International Trucking Show in Las Vegas to discuss using AC power instead of idling truck engines to run auxiliary devices. Xantrex is a supplier of high-performance inverter/chargers designed to convert battery DC power to AC to run equipment, electronics and other appliances.

According to Brian Lawrence, account manager for the Mobile Markets Div. of Xantrex, "The combination of 110-volt AC truck infrastructure with 'shore power' [standard "plug-in" access to electricity] is currently the lowest cost and highest impact solution to idling.

"Several truck manufacturers now offer 110-volt AC systems, and Xantrex also offers aftermarket 110-volt AC systems for heavy-duty trucks. Component suppliers are also designing 110-volt AC-powered heating/cooling systems.

"The availability and popularity of 110-volt AC infrastructure will drive truck stop electrification," Lawrence added, noting that utilities are ready to work with truck stops to make electrification a reality and that clean air organizations are developing programs to help fund the initiative.

Terry Zeigler, vp-engineering for Bergstrom, said that market research has led the company to emphasize the use of electricity in the long term to power HV/AC systems.

The first phase of Bergstrom's initiative will be production of a self-contained, electrified air conditioning system for engine-off purposes only. The system will use either fuel-fired, electric resistance or heat pump technology for the unit's heating function.

There are a number of technical challenges to address if electricity is to gain widespread use as an alternative to engine idling, Zeigler added. These include electrical power requirements, the need for a shore power infrastructure, electrical power storage systems and battery life, efficiency requirements, sleeper insulation and vehicle system packaging constraints.

Timothy D. Lee, senior research specialist for Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. (NMPC), also discussed his organization's truck stop electrification plans for the future. "Recent developments in the longhaul trucking industry such as the high cost of diesel fuel, state anti-idling laws and the potential DOT requirement for increased rest periods for drivers, suggest it is worthwhile to investigate the benefits of truck stop electrification," Lee said.

A study to determine the market potential for shore power stations at truck stops in New York State is the first step in the utility's plan. In 2001, they plan to build a demonstration shore power station.

NMPC intends to track utilization and identify the capital costs associated with operating the facility, Lee explained. If the demonstration is successful, NMPC would locate shore power stations at rest and convenience stops along the major trucking thoroughfares.

"Today there's a lot of motivation for electrifying truck stops," he observed. These incentives include the potential for pollution reduction tax credits for fleets and truck stop operations, fuel cost savings for fleets, the creation of a new revenue stream for the electrical utilities, better air quality and noise reduction benefits for communities near truck stops. "What is lacking is the availability of electrical hookups at rest stops," Lee added.

Like Niagara Mohawk, electricity supplier Southern California Edison envisions a number of benefits to replacing engine idling with the use of AC power.

Brian Sisco, technical specialist, electric transportation, said truck stop electrification can only be accomplished through the active participation of all stakeholders, including electric utilities and travel centers, fleets, equipment suppliers, truck makers and government agencies. Goals should include safety, standardization of certain aspects of the electrical infrastructure and promotion of truck stop electrification.

Southern California Edison's own goals in such an initiative would be to minimize the system impact of bringing electricity to truck stops, reduce service costs, and provide a safe and comfortable environment for truckers.

Dave McClure, director of marketing for Petro Stopping Centers, considered electrification from the perspective of truck stop and travel plaza operators. Petro currently has 55 locations in 32 states and is adding new facilities at a rate of about five per year.

"Our second biggest investment is asphalt," McClure said, "so if we're going to electrify, it's best to do it during construction." Even then, explained McClure, the cost of electrification is high - as much as three-quarters of a million dollars per site, or $3,750 per parking space. Based on a five-year amortization schedule, the total break-even expense per parking space per day would be $7.59, he said.

In addition to costs, McClure outlined other critical issues that would have to be addressed if truck stops were to electrify, including safety and liability, wet and cold weather considerations, maintenance costs and operational issues such as how to charge for usage.

In spite of the issues involved, McClure noted that Petro is interested in electrification because "idling is illegal in about 20% of our service areas, and Petro has larger lots and customers that tend to stay longer, giving us economies of scale."

Lawrence invited fleets and other parties interested in taking an active role to contact Xantrex Technology by telephone at 360-435-8826, ext. 4080, or by e-mail via

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