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Electric trucks take centre stage

Developments with electric port mobile plant are coming quicker than many thought possible just two to three years ago

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The first two Gaussin/Blue Solutions terminal tractors will go into service with Bolloré Ports
The first two Gaussin/Blue Solutions terminal tractors will go into service with Bolloré Ports

As far as is known, all the automated horizontal transport equipment available for container terminals today is either electrified or has electrification as an option. Generally speaking, automated machines make electrification simpler as there is no requirement to try to design the charging cycle around the hours of a manned shift operation.

There is, however, plenty of scope for manned electrically powered port equipment, especially at ports and terminals that have decided, for various reasons, that they are not going to automate all or some aspects of their operation.

Abidjan focus

Electrification is coming to rican ports. In the framework of a co-development agreement signed last year, Gaussin will supply two terminal tractors powered by Blue Solutions’ LMP Lithium-ion batteries to Bolloré Ports in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. Blue Solutions is part of Bolloré Group, and developed and owns the LMP (Lithium Metal Phosphate) battery technology, originally developed for electric buses and cars.

The new Gaussin prime movers were tested in Pointe Noire, Congo, which is generally accepted as a very tough environment. The data provided a very interesting OPEX/CAPEX ratio compared to diesel tractors, says Gaussin VP Aziz Azougagh. On a case by case basis, there is clearly a market for the tractor, depending on local diesel and grid prices. Bolloré has 12 port concessions in Africa – 11 container terminals, and a ro-ro operation in Dakar.

The solution with LMP is aimed at hot countries. Hervé Champion, Blue Solutions’ business development director, says the battery does not degrade with heat and needs no cooling, which itself would be a drain on its charge. He says the Gaussin battery pack delivers 10 hours autonomy when fully charged, and 100% charging does not shorten the battery life, which is 12 years.

LMP is not fast-charge, and charging time is four to five hours. Therefore, the solution may not suit all operations, even if the grid price is favourable. However, the required charging rate is just 25 kWh, a mere tion of the rate required for the fast-charge LTO Li-ion batteries that will be fitted to the AGVs to be supplied by ST Engineering/ Gaussin to PSA Singapore. Furthermore, given Gaussin’s modularity principles, the battery pack on the ATM FULL ELEC can be exchanged in just three minutes. Gaussin and Blue Solutions are investigating whether the tractor can be scaled up for ro-ro work requiring a heavier gross vehicle weight.

At TOC Europe this month, Gaussin also showed an APM 75T autonomous prime mover developed with Aidrivers and a VASCO AIV developed with BA Systèmes and university partners (WorldCargo News, May 2019, p30). The joint venture between Gaussin and BA Systèmes no longer exists. Gaussin says that it owns all the IPR to the VASCO AIV.


Valencia and LA

It is not just terminal tractors that are on the radar for electrification. Hyster Europe has electrification projects underway in the Port of Los Angeles and in Valencia, Spain, the first involving laden handler mast trucks and the second involving reach stackers.


Testing has shown that the machines in development offer comparable, or potentially even better, performance to the equivalent IC models and provide excellent energy efficiency and a low cost of ownership, claims Hyster.

Due to much lower maintenance costs (no engine or transmission), it believes the potential return on investment is achieved after three to four years when compared to IC models. Operational benefits include low noise, and faster and more accurate response with the electric drive.

Willem Nieuwland, project leader for Hyster Europe, said: “The energy recovery achieved by the container handlers in test is more than expected, largely due to the full flow hydraulic energy recovery from lowering and braking. energy consumption reductions of up to 15% are expected compared to trucks without these systems.”

The first electric Hyster H1150HDCH in Los Angeles is powered purely by a large Lithium-ion battery, which is charged by a high-power, wireless fastcharger. It will be used by a port operator in the Californian port.


Hyster expects that the ‘battery-only’ approach will suit applications with a medium-duty cycle where there is suitable energy infrastructure and a strict charge management regime for opportunity charging.


“It will not suit larger fleets due to the high demand on the electricity grid, or where multiple trucks are charged at the same time,” says Nieuwland. “Managing peak power demand will be a complex challenge for some operations, which is where the fuel cell comes in.”

The second truck also features a large Lithium-ion battery, but is re-charged by two onboard fuel cells during operation. This approach, says Hyster, better suits the challenges of the heavy-duty test site at Fenix Marine Services.

“The use of hydrogen reduces planning complexity or charging. Continuous operation is possible as long as hydrogen is available from the onboard hydrogen tanks. Even where refilling is required, this is only expected to take around 15 minutes,” said Nieuwland. “Plus, the battery can also be charged during lunch and other breaks to minimise refuelling requirements further.”

The reach stacker that will be tested at MSC Terminal Valencia will also feature hydrogen fuel cells. Nieuwland said: “We expect the electric reach stacker to support continuous operations and achieve comparable, or better, full shift performance than a conventional IC reach stacker.”


Hydrogen tractor

In another development, Terberg Benschop is teaming up with Zepp Solutions BV for the development of a proof-ofconcept hydrogen fuel cell yard tractor.


Besides the full-electric Terberg EV tractor, Terberg has identified the potential for another zero-emission yard tractor solution, the hydrogen fuel cell powered YT203-H2 yard tractor.


The parties will develop, test and demonstrate a hydrogen fuel cell yard tractor, optimised for the demanding operations of a conventional Terberg tractor. “The YT203-H2 specification covers all the operational requirements for different applications such as logistics, distribution and ports for the global market,” said Terberg.


This is not the fuel cell tractor that will be tested at the Grimaldi ro-ro terminal in Valencia, under the EU-backed Valenciaport project mentioned above.


More on the way

Among other developments, Chinese company XCMG has reported the development of an electric drive 45t reach stacker, designated XCS45-EV. This has been tested in several Chinese ports. The 235 kW battery pack is claimed to
have autonomy of eight hours, with two hours for recharging. The batteries power a high-torque 200 kW motor driving an AMT transmission.

In Italy, FTMH has delivered a 25-1200 FLT with electric drive to La Cisa for a steel-handling operation. The FTEL 25-12 is available with a choice of battery packs, according to the autonomy and charging period required. It is hoped to report more fully on these developments in a future edition of WorldCargo News.


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