With strong incentives from both the public and private sectors, California stakeholders in the alternative transportation fuel space opened a new research center on Tuesday aimed at cutting fuel consumption in the trucking industry by 50% in the next 10 years. Funding from the California Energy Commission (CEC) is supporting the new center.

What is being dubbed the California Hybrid Efficient and Advanced Truck (CalHEAT) Research Center in Pasadena, CA, is specifically focused on mitigating the environmental challenges of pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced by trucks and other heavy duty vehicles, state and industry officials said at opening ceremonies for the center, which has a $3 million grant from the CEC Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.

The trucking sector being addressed accounts for what the CEC called “a large portion” of the state’s air pollution and consumes 20% of the transportation fuel in California.

CalHEAT intends to demonstrate fuel-saving technologies for what the industry designates as Class-8 heavy duty trucks and port drayage trucks that are the focus of natural gas conversions among fleets in the adjacent Long Beach and Los Angeles ports (see Daily GPI, July 1, 2009). It will also test an electric plug-in parcel delivery truck to analyze its performance and evaluate its effect on the power grid.

“By examining the potential of a variety of fuels and technologies, we want to seriously explore the possibility and develop a roadmap for cutting fuel consumption in new trucks during the next decade,” said John Boesel, CEO of CALSTART, a nonprofit organization focused on growing a clean transportation technology industry. CALSTART will manage the new center for CEC.

CEC Chairman Karen Douglas said Southern California was an “obvious choice” for the nation’s first center of this kind. “It will focus on high-efficiency truck technology,” Douglas said.

“A much as 40% of the [truck-compatible cargo] containers shipped to the United States come through the Long Beach/LA Ports. As a result, the 710 Freeway [between Pasadena and the ports] and rail yards of East Los Angeles is one of the most polluted and congested highways in the country. The region is heavily impacted by the truck traffic.”

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