Passenger cars, semi-trucks, and other road vehicles are a visible and pervasive source of air pollution. But other vehicles that don't hit the road — such as cranes, tugboats, locomotives, and vehicles used in mining, cargo-handling, and construction — can emit a lot of air pollution, too, particularly if they are powered by diesel engines. But the MPCA is offering grants to reduce this type of pollution.
Taylor Trucking Line of Northfield received one such grant earlier this year to convert a diesel-powered terminal tractor to all-electric power. The tractor is used to move semitrailers around in the terminal yard. Swapping out the 2004-model diesel engine will cut Taylor’s yard emissions by about 3.5 tons of nitrogen oxides, nearly a ton of particulates, and 112 tons of carbon dioxide annually.
That’s a significant reduction of what are known as criteria air pollutants, which can harm the health of employees and people in the community, degrade the environment, and cause property damage. The U.S. EPA estimates that every dollar spent on reducing diesel emissions brings $13 in health benefits. Reducing diesel emissions also lowers atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gases that are leading to rapid climate change.
Taylor applied for an MPCA grant in 2019 to help finance the project. The grant funds are provided by the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) and Minnesota's portion of the Volkswagen settlement. DERA funding provides a match that in this case paid about 40 percent of the cost to switch from diesel to electric.
George Brooks, Taylor’s general manager, says they used the grant money to pay Missouri-based Orange EV to replace the diesel engine and powertrain in their existing terminal tractor with an all-electric motor and drive. The equipment had been having costly breakdowns, and repowering the diesel engine with electric basically made the old truck into a new, much better one.
“We like it,” Brooks said. “We’re getting out of it what we were looking for: A more reliable power train.”
Anticipating more such projects, the company opted to install a 480V fast-charging station that can provide a full charge for the terminal tractor in three hours or less, and Brooks said they’re hoping to do another 100-percent electric conversion.