Freight is the number one source of smog-related emissions in the Los Angeles area, and a major source of smog production in other large cities as well. With projected US growth rates, those emissions could double by mid-century if not addressed, according to Ars Technica. While many companies are looking at electric semis, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is looking at another possibility- building a test “eHighway” in Carson, California, near the Port of Long Beach (the second-busiest seaport in the United States) that uses electrified catenary lines to connect trucks to for electric power. The idea is much like what trolley and light rail lines use in many cities already but the trucks don’t run on a rail, and they can disconnect from the catenary and run on their own engines when they reach the end of the line.
The eHighway right now is just a test road. It’s just one mile long and only has three freight trucks that can pair with the system—a battery electric truck, a natural-gas hybrid-electric truck, and a diesel-hybrid truck. Each truck connects to the electric wires with rooftop rods that can be connected or disconnected while moving. This allows the trucks to switch lanes or pass other vehicles without being permanently fixed to the overhead systems.
When the trucks are connected to the catenary, they release zero emissions. The project cost $13.5 million to build.