Chicken, egg. Supply, demand. Product, market. Each item in these pairings is important, and useless without the other.
History is replete with examples of technologies that promised much but faded away for lack of a market. No matter how attractive the potential rewards, potential buyers were reluctant to commit capital until they saw real-world results.
The benefits of shore power (electrical outlets) at truck stops aren’t theoretical promises. In the real world of long-haul trucking, shore power is available today, delivering proven results to those using it.
Using shore power, a driver can plug in a space heater to keep his truck sleeper warm. Or, he can plug in an AC-powered HVAC system that’s available on the aftermarket or as a factory option on a new truck.
A driver can also run a microwave, TV, computer, lights, etc.
But, back to the chicken and the egg.
Shore power isn’t widely available enough or in use enough (yet) to make it the new operating norm for the industry. And, not all trucks are equipped to take full advantage of shore power.
Truck stops want demand for shore power from fleets before they’ll move forward in investing in electrifying their sites. Fleets, in turn, want to see power installed before moving to a system that can utilize shore power.
How do those of us who advocate shore power as a technology that delivers multiple benefits for multiple constituencies deliver both the chicken and egg? How do we simultaneously create both supply and demand?
In the case of shore power, the answer has been the Shorepower Truck Electrification Project (STEP), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and administered by Shorepower Technologies, along with Cascade Sierra Solutions, a non-profit organization focusing on helping the trucking industry increase efficiency while decreasing fuel consumption.
On the supply side, Shorepower Technologies is deploying power pedestals - similar to electric vehicle charging stations and what’s already available at marinas and RV parks - at 50 truck stops along major freight corridors.
The idea is to create a strategic network of shore power installations that are available in most locations where truckers stop for the night.
This project is just the beginning, adding to what’s already available by our company, and others. And the vision is growing.
Outside of the STEP project, we expect to have 250 truck stops up and running with shore power in the next five years, along busy interstates, including 5, 10, 20, 70, 80, 90 and 95.
On the demand side, Cascade Sierra Solutions is offering equipment-purchase rebates for vehicle owners and fleets that buy shore power-ready equipment, either as part of original equipment or as aftermarket installations.
The beauty of shore power is it can power the AC hotel loads - power-consuming convenience items - that normally place a tremendous load on a truck’s electrical system. Shore power also works in concert with onboard, self-contained HVAC systems.
More and more battery- and diesel-powered APUs are shore power compatible.
Think RVs. When a camper is in the woods, he can rely on battery power or a diesel generator set to power his RV’s comfort items. Same with a pleasure craft that goes out to sea.
When that RV or boat returns home, or goes to an RV park or marina, it is quickly plugged into shore power because its system can work both on and off the grid.
Shore power is available. You just have to look for it.
Truck terminals often have plug-ins, and the capability to add more. Ditto with loading docks.
At truck stops, shore power (and cable) is affordable - around $1 an hour, and very affordable compared to the cost of idling. It is estimated that it costs about $4 in diesel to idle a heavy truck engine for one hour.
With shore power, drivers can operate in-cab comfort and communications equipment without idling the truck or relying on battery power.
The reduction in emissions makes for a healthier environment for drivers on their rest breaks, those visiting the truck stop and the nearby community. The reduction in noise leaves drivers more rested when they return to the road.
Truck and fleet owners get returns beyond the immediate reduction in fuel costs.
Idling a truck is hard on its engine. Avoiding idling extends the intervals between oil changes and overhauls.
By using shore power, owners also avoid the hassle and cost of conforming to the increasing number of state and local restrictions on idling.
That’s a lot of benefit, to drivers and companies, as well as to the industry and the environment.
But shore power won’t live up to the potential we think it has if the trucking public doesn’t know about it, can’t find it, doesn’t use it or doesn’t ask for it.
Expect to hear more about shore power facilities at truck stops, and the additional products truck and equipment manufacturers will introduce that are wired to take advantage of shore power.
Our goal is to make shore power as standard in the industry as the diesel fuel pump, and a more common practice than idling the truck for 10 hours a night.
In answer to the question of, “Which do you need first, the chicken or the egg?” our plan is to answer, “Both,” and then deliver on that.
Jeff Kim is President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Shorepower Technologies (www.shorepower.com). The company is currently deploying electrified parking spaces across North America, and provides its Electrified Parking system for truck stop electrification (TSE), as well as electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Involved with truck idle-reduction technologies for a decade as a senior engineering consultant and design specialist, Kim has led the design team responsible for the engineering and assembly of Shorepower’s comprehensive shore power system.