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On Land and Sea, Transport Companies Turning to Alternative Fuels

Moves by transport companies to use alternate fuels to ease their carbon emissions are picking up steam.

DHL Express is the first within DHL Group to test hydrogen-fueled trucks for the long haul together with its customer Apple, while SSA Marine, which operates three container terminals at the Port of Long Beach, has become the first terminal operator at the port to transition its fossil-fueled cargo-handling equipment fleet to renewable diesel fuel.

Together with Apple, DHL is piloting the vehicle in the Benelux region, as part of the Interreg NW Europe program H2-Share, coordinated by WaterstofNet. The program’s goal is to facilitate the development of low-carbon heavy-duty vehicles on hydrogen fuel for logistic applications and to gain practical experience in different regions. It creates a transnational living lab and basis for the development of the zero-emission heavy-duty vehicle industry.

“In a globalized world, sustainable and clean fuels are essential for climate-neutral logistics, not only for sea and air freight, but also line-haul road freight, as these help reduce CO2 emissions,” Alberto Nobis, CEO of DHL Express Europe, said. “That’s why we engage not only in the electrification of our fleet, but also invest in the development of alternative drive systems for very long ranges. The project shows that we can achieve truly emission-free logistics in Europe if we join forces and build on experience.”

While battery-electric trucks can operate efficiently within last-mile delivery, fuels from renewable energies such as hydrogen are essential for zero-emission line-haul, the company said. Due to their vast potential, DHL Express is now testing a heavy-duty vehicle, with a fuel cell range extender from VDL.

The truck, operated by Dutch Nassau Sneltransport, covers a daily distance of around 200 kilometsrs, running a cross-border route in the Benelux region. The truck refuels daily at a mobile fuel station from Wystrach as part of the project. During the piloting phase, up to 35 tons of CO2 can be saved with the new technology, DHL noted.

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In line with its Sustainability Roadmap, DHL Group is heavily investing in the use of alternative fuels. Hydrogen is opening up a new market and can contribute to green transport solutions, DHL said, with insights from the project helping evaluate the potential of this fuel alternative and supporting decision-making processes.

Moves by transport companies on and and sea to use alternate fuels to ease their carbon emissions are picking up steam.
The truck is part of a European testing program operating between the Netherlands and Belgium. Courtesy

For SSA Marine, the move is expected to achieve a 68 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across its Long Beach terminals. The change involves more than 230 pieces of equipment across the company’s Long Beach terminals. SSA voluntarily converted fueling to support the goals of the Clean Air Action Plan, which calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

“Cutting these emissions would not be possible without the leadership shown by partners like SSA Marine,” Port of Long Beach executive director Mario Cordero said. “SSA’s vision and hard work in making their operations cleaner shows the goods movement industry the way to a greener future.”

Renewable diesel has the same chemical energy as traditional diesel fuel, but is synthesized from sources such as animal fat from food waste, used cooking oil and soybean oil, the company noted. In addition to its port-wide renewable fuel transition, SSA is working on other initiatives to transition its cargo-handling fleet to zero emissions by 2030.

At Pier J, the company recently completed a demonstration of two battery-electric top handlers and is converting nine rubber-tired gantry cranes into fully electric. Six are already in operation. The remaining three will be converted by early 2022.

In mid-2022, SSA’s terminal at Pier C will deploy 33 zero-emission yard tractors with supporting infrastructure.