NREL Tapped To Help Electrify 4 Major Freight Corridors

April 18, 2023 | By Anna Squires | Contact media relations

A sweeping drone view from above of the busy streets and i-80 freeway around Salt Lake City.
NREL will collaborate with industry partners on four projects to plan zero-emission charging infrastructure spanning more than half of the United States. Photo from iStock

This spring, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $7 million in funding for seven projects focused on creating regional infrastructure plans to support electric charging and hydrogen fueling for medium- and heavy-duty trucks along the nation’s most heavily trafficked corridors. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will collaborate with industry partners on four of the seven projects, which will ultimately inform plans for zero-emission charging infrastructure across more than half of the United States.

The electrification and hydrogen fueling corridor planning projects are a critical step toward ambitious federal clean energy goals, including decarbonizing the U.S. transportation sector by 2050 and deploying more than 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) chargers nationwide by 2030. The transportation sector is now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles—which include everything from semitrucks and cement mixers to transit buses and delivery fleets—are some of the heaviest emitters on the road. Creating the infrastructure to support battery-electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles could have an outsize impact in reducing carbon emissions. In turn, improved air quality can benefit those who live and work near freight corridors: the highways that connect goods, services, and people.

“The heavy-duty vehicle industry has already developed a wide assortment of zero-emission commercial vehicles. But ubiquitous charging and fueling infrastructure will be key to enabling their widespread adoption,” said Ken Kelly, NREL’s chief engineer for commercial vehicle electrification. “With funding from the Department of Energy, NREL will be working closely with our partners to leverage vehicle data, innovative analysis tools, and zero-emission vehicle infrastructure expertise to help to accelerate infrastructure plans across the U.S.”

Read on to learn more about the four projects NREL researchers will support.

Creating an East Coast Commercial Zero-Emission Vehicle Corridor

In collaboration with CALSTART, NREL researchers will launch an intensive planning effort to develop infrastructure deployment plans for zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles along the I-95 freight corridor, which stretches from Savannah, Georgia, to Newark, New Jersey.

The project will leverage state-of-the-art NREL software tools, including its EVI-X suite of EV charging infrastructure analysis tools. It will call upon areas of deep research expertise, including EV grid integration research and hydrogen infrastructure models, which will allow the team to analyze goods movement, energy demands, and infrastructure needs along the I-95 corridor. Then, researchers will help identify optimal locations for EV charging and hydrogen refueling sites to support emissions-free commercial vehicle travel. The project ultimately aims to establish infrastructure plans for the East Coast as the epicenter of zero-emission freight transformation and improve the quality of life for underserved populations along the corridor.

Additional project partners include Momentum, the Eastern Transportation Coalition, the Georgetown Climate Center, Dominion Energy, Exelon, and several Clean Cities coalitions.

Zero-Emission Infrastructure Planning Along the I-80 Midwest Corridor

Led by a Cummins Inc. team, NREL researchers will help develop extensive plans for battery-electric charging and hydrogen fueling stations along the stretch of I-80 that crosses Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. The planned network of charging and fueling stations will be focused on transitioning 30% of the region’s medium- and heavy-duty fleets to zero-emission technologies by 2035.

The project will leverage several of NREL’s proprietary tools: The Fleet DNA data clearinghouse will provide data on vehicle duty cycles, and the EVI-X modeling suite and H2FAST hydrogen infrastructure analysis tool will provide input on hydrogen fueling infrastructure requirements. NREL will also bring expertise in EV charging and grid interconnection analyses at strategic charging and refueling locations, like truck stops. The project timeline calls for the team to complete the infrastructure plans within the next two years and aim for near-term network deployment. Longer-term plans will include updating the network with more advanced zero-emission technologies.

Additional project partners include CALSTART, Purdue University, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, Pilot Travel Centers, the Indiana Motor Truck Association, and Drive Clean Indiana.

Corridor Electrification Plans for Underserved Populations in Greater Salt Lake City

In collaboration with a Utah State University team, NREL researchers will assist in developing a community-, state-, and industry-supported action plan for corridor electrification along Utah’s Wasatch Front.

The Wasatch Front is the urban corridor stretching along the Wasatch Mountain Range, and while roughly 80% of Utah’s population lives in the region, underserved communities are disproportionately affected by poor air quality due to high-density, medium- and heavy-duty traffic to and from the greater Salt Lake City area. In support of the equity-focused project, NREL will provide operational data on commercial vehicles’ duty cycles, expertise in EV charging and grid interconnection analyses, and input on hydrogen infrastructure requirements using the EVI-X modeling suite for EV charging and the H2FAST hydrogen infrastructure analysis tool.

Additional project partners include Purdue University, Argonne National Laboratory, CALSTART, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Indiana Motor Truck Association, Drive Clean Indiana, Pilot Travel Centers, Greater Indiana Clean Cities, and the Northern Indiana Public Service Company.

Cost-Effective Commercial EV Charging for Northeast Highways

Led by a National Grid team, NREL researchers will help create a detailed model of truck operations along New England’s freight corridors and then use that data to simulate future electric truck operations, ideal charging locations, and the amount of energy those charging stations will use. The project will examine freight corridors in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, with a goal of informing a blueprint for future commercial EV charging.

The researchers will use proprietary NREL software tools, including the EVI-X modeling suite, to craft a plan for the most cost-effective deployment of large-scale EV charging, and provide data to National Grid as the company plans to expand its grid infrastructure to accommodate service requests in a timely manner. The project also aims to create a deployment plan that can serve as an example for other regions.

Additional project partners include RMI, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), Georgetown Climate Center, Applegreen Electric, CALSTART, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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Tags: Hydrogen,Transportation