Truckstops Go Alternative

Truckers seeing CNG, LNG, electric power coming their way

PORTLAND, Ore. -- While a truckstop might not seem like a place for progressive products and services, its “hip” factor may be on the rise--at least with regards to alternative fuels.

One such travel plaza, the Eagles Landing Travel Plaza in Beaver, Utah, completed installing a liquid natural gas (LNG) fueling station, along with electric power “pedestals”  for 24 trucks.

“It’s happening now, and it’s exciting to see the trucking industry moving ahead to wean itself off foreign oil,” said Alan Bates, vice president of marketing for Shorepower Technologies, Portland, Ore. “If you want to see the future, look no further.”

“We look out on our property and we’re excited,” said Slade Smith, general manager of Eagle’s Landing. “Our company philosophy is to be proactive, and if we can provide services that also help our country gain energy independence, then we’re all for that too.”

He said the company sees momentum gaining for alternative-fuel vehicles, and with the truckstop being in a corridor from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas, the move to LNG makes sense.

“It may be a few years for trucks to put on the onboard equipment,” Smith said. “But we’re ready now with the fueling station."

Smith said truckstop electrification (TSE) is also gaining steam, and it’s a technology that can be used immediately with little or no onboard infrastructure. “Our pedestals are being used, and as more truckers know it’s here, the momentum builds,” he said. “A simple extension cord and space heater can heat the cab and sleeper so a truck doesn’t have to idle.”

And, for those with compatible heating and cooling systems, truckers can plug in to recharge their batteries or avoid running their diesel generators.

Bates said he sees a parallel between alternative fuel and truckstop electrification. “Both are faced with a chicken and egg scenario. But the beauty of TSE is its low cost and immediate dividends,” he said. “We’ve done numerous surveys, and we’ve found 90% of respondents do want power at truckstops.”

Bates added that the company is creating a network of TSE locations with a long-term goal of more than 1,000 sites. By the end of its current build-out, they’ll have 60 stations. Those join more than 35 other locations that offer power plug-ins. “With our efforts, we see the day where truck drivers will be able to drive coast-to-coast via major transport corridors and plug in every night,” he said.

“We think truckstop electrification is a great idea, and if fleets and owner operators want it, we’ll put it in,” said Bill Mulligan, vice president of development for Pilot Flying J, which has more than 650 truckstops throughout the country. “Seventy percent of our business is with fleets. and we meet regularly with them to hear what their needs are. We’ve been hearing their desire for LNG and CNG, and we’re on pace to have 150 new fueling stations by the end of 2013. As for truckstop electrification, we currently have 10 sites up and running. We’ll put in more as demand ramps up.”

Shorepower is a transportation electrification infrastructure company offering solutions for connecting cars and trucks to the electrical grid. Products and services offered include SmartWay-verified TSE, as well as charging stations for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Shorepower corporate facilities are located in Portland, Ore., and Utica, N.Y.