OAKLAND (CBS SF) — A freight hauler at the Port of Oakland is planning to try out two electric-powered big-rig trucks on the highway by October, port officials said this week.

GSC Logistics, the largest trucking company at the Port, wants to find out if zero-emission tractor-trailers can haul cargo containers on the freeway, port officials said.

The company already has one battery-powered truck moving containers around at the Port of Oakland.

“Now we want to test these new trucks on the road – the manufacturer says they can haul fully loaded containers 55 miles per hour up a steep grade,” said GSC Director of Transportation Brandon Taylor.

GSC is acquiring two 13-ton electric trucks with assistance from state grants. The rigs would both have twin 241-horse power battery-driven motors. Each truck would be able to travel 125 miles on a battery charge.

The new electric trucks would be heavier than GSC’s first model due to battery weight.

GSC hauls the equivalent of 120,000 20-foot-containers annually through Oakland. The company began electric truck testing 18 months ago.

Port of Oakland environmental scientists are following the trial closely. That’s because battery-powered tractors are expected to factor in Oakland’s goal of zero-emission cargo handling.

GSC and three other companies, Impact Transportation, Oakland Maritime Support Services and ConGlobal currently operate electric tractors near the Port. The Port has projected that there could be as many as 20 battery-powered trucks hauling containers by the end of the year.

“We’re grateful to these firms for taking a chance on battery power,” said Port of Oakland Environmental Programs and Planning Director Richard Sinkoff. “We can’t get to zero emissions without pioneers to lead the charge.”

Port officials said it’s hoped that electric trucks can someday replace the 6,000 diesel tractors hauling containers in Oakland.

That won’t happen, industry experts say, until costs come down and trucks can go further on a single charge. There’s one other challenge: battery-charging infrastructure.

“The technology and capability of electric tractors is moving fast,” said Mr. Taylor. “But the ability of a truck owner-operator to buy an electric truck and have the electrical infrastructure to support it may be years away.”

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