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Trucks worth millions stay idle at Port of Los Angeles

June 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A highly-touted program to use electric trucks to cut down on pollution at the Port of Los Angeles has stalled.

The port bought 15 electric trucks at a cost of about $5 million, but the original batteries only lasted about five hours. Only one is currently in use.

"Whenever you tout a technology in a company we think is a leading-edge company and that technology is not working to the extent you like, we have to retool," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

Villaraigosa was one of the biggest promoters of the truck maker, Balqon. It was mentioned during his state of the city speech in 2009 as an example of how his administration was promoting job growth.

The trucks are being retrofitted with new batteries because they couldn't last a full shift.

"We think this next generation of lithium battery died is being tested as we speak today," Balqon CEO B. Samra said. "We believe that solves the range problem, at least for one shift or 10-hour operation."

The company has developed a charger that will give the new batteries a full 10-hour charge in only one hour.

Zero emissions technology is critical to cleaning the air around the port. Port officials say pollution at there has been cut by half since 2005.

Another electric-powered vehicle company is searching for a solution to the shorter life batteries. Balqon is looking for a heavier-duty, longer-lasting battery so that it can fix its trucks.

"Until you put them in operation, especially in a heavy-load environment, is when you start to determine what their actual consumption is," Samra said.

The port is using its own money, not taxpayer funds on the project. A port spokesman says they are not giving up on the zero-emission trucks.


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