SUNSET PARK — Forced to dramatically reduce emissions, the Port of Los Angeles plans to purchase hydrogen fuel cell, hybrid-electric trucks from a Santa Monica-based firm.

The heavy-duty-big-rigs from Vision Industries (www.visionmotorcorp.com), which moved to Sunset Park earlier this month, will be tested to evaluate their durability and suitability for short and medium distance cargo-hauling, said Chris Cannon, director of the port’s Clean Truck Program, which began in October 2008 and has removed thousands of polluting trucks from the port and delivered at least an 80 percent reduction in air emissions.

“This is an effort on part of the Port of Los Angeles to plan for the future,” Cannon said. “We believe that electric trucks are going to be more and more important in the coming years due to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The port plans to purchase eight Class-8, zero-emission hydrogen fuel cell hybrid-electric trucks from Vision and put them through a series of on-the-road and laboratory tests over the next 12 to 18 months. The University of California, Riverside College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) laboratories will help guide the data collection and analysis.

The trucks cost around $255,000 each. The port will be submitting a proposal for funding from the California Energy Commission to help support the project.

The Vision trucks drive on different roads with different loads and other driving conditions.

Representatives from Vision said the Tyrano heavy-duty trucks are the world’s first “green” Class 8 trucks on the road, produce zero emissions and have an estimated range of 200 miles over an eight-hour shift. Extended-range trucks can go up to 400 miles.

Santa Monica resident Rudy Tapia, a vice president with Vision, said the trucks make almost no noise when running and provide a much smoother ride for drivers. He said the trucks are 30 to 40 percent less expensive to operate then diesel trucks.

Vision is currently in talks with City Hall to provide zero-emission garbage trucks, Tapia said. Currently vision has a contract with FedEx, providing the drive systems for Kenworth and Volvo trucks.

“The port deal is very important because if the testing comes through and subsidies are provided, we can start moving a significant amount of trucks to the port and potentially replicate those in places like Oakland, New York, New Jersey and potentially other ports around the country and the world,” Tapia said.

The Port of Los Angeles will continue to work with Balqon Corp., another Class 8 electric vehicle manufacturer, through an existing contract to demonstrate the use of its fully electric vehicle. The CE-CERT laboratories will also guide those evaluations.

The Port of Los Angeles is America’s largest in terms of container volume and cargo value, generating 919,000 regional jobs and $39.1 billion in annual wages and tax revenue.

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