OEMs push back on zero-emission standards

In-Depth

PEMA declines to back ZEPA’s call for standardised battery packs on electric CHE, favouring cost-effective solutions over industry-specific standards.

The Port Equipment Manufacturers Association (PEMA) has declined to support the Zero Emission Port Alliance’s (ZEPA) push for standardised battery packs and other systems on electrified mobile cargo handling equipment.

ZEPA was set up by APMT Terminals and DP World to accelerate port decarbonisation by making battery-electric container handling equipment “affordable, accessible and attractive this decade through collective action, as a catalyst to zero-emission ports.” ZEPA’s focus is “untethered CHE”, and it estimates there are 52,000 terminal tractors, 7,500 straddle carriers and 9,300 reach stackers in operation around the globe today.

Moving all this equipment to zero emissions machines is a huge challenge. Battery equipment is 2-3 times more expensive than diesel machines, and is not produced on anywhere near the same scale. ZEPA’s goal is make battery-electric CHE “affordable and accessible by 2030.”

Voluntary standards

To achieve this ZEPA set out to bring together port operators and equipment OEMs to consider and develop “voluntary design standards” for the CHE itself.  Proposed voluntary standards included the interoperability and compatibility of charging solutions and batteries.

PEMA has not supported ZEPA with this initiative. Its individual member equipment OEMS consider that collaborating on a standardised battery system is not something they could agree to.

They strongly believe that an integrated battery-electric drive train is a key competitive differentiator in the market, and not something that can be standardised without commoditising their products. There is a very strong feeling among European OEMs in particular that collaborating on a standard battery platform would undermine their competitive position in the emerging market for battery electric CHE.

Concerns were also raised that battery electric drives are not yet mature enough to be standardised, and that CHE OEMs themselves are not in a position to drive such standardisation.

A large Tier 2 component supplier informed WorldCargo News that drive line components such as engines and transmissions are series products that are shared across whole vehicle classes. A terminal tractor, for example, shares engines and transmissions with Class 8 trucks and other vehicles.

To achieve a scale that can drive down price, a component like a battery electric drive needs to have applications in the tens of thousands across multiple industries. Port equipment is well short of the scale required in this respect.

OEMs share ZEPA’s desire to see battery electric machines become more cost effective. However, they do not consider trying to develop industry specific standards for nascent technology in what is a relatively small market to be the best approach at this point.

In comments to WorldCargo News on its Sustainability strategy Piotr Konopka, Group Vice President of Global Decarbonisation & Energy Programmes at DP World, took a different view. The executive said that it is not unrealistic for competing OEMs to cooperate on standards.

“We cannot reach net zero in isolation. While standardisation can aid efficiency, it should not hinder competition or innovation,” he said.

Konopka added that ZEPA has carefully considered the issue of standardisation, noting that design standards would be voluntary and public, without enforcement.

Furthermore, ZEPA has appointed external advisors on standard development and is open to industry and public sector input in the process, he added.

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