Smart Cities Insider interviewed Dennis Rodriguez. Dennis is the Chief Cities Executive at Siemens, responsible for Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. We were talking about “eHighway”, the electric highway, one of the highly interesting technologies Siemens has been working on lately.
What is the eHighway and why should we have it?
Dennis Rodriguez: Emissions from road freight are growing and are even forecast to overtake those of passenger transport. To address this challenge in the most efficient way, Siemens started the development of the eHighway concept. The eHighway consists of three parts: electrification infrastructure in the form of a catenary system and substations, a hybrid-electric truck that has the same flexibility as a diesel truck, as well as an active pantograph, which allows the truck to connect to the catenary while driving, thus enabling the truck to be supplied with current while running.
Along with our test track in Germany we are full speed ahead in terms of developing a demonstration project in the city of Carson, in the Los Angeles region, and we have been fortunate to be partnering with the lead public agency on the project, the South Coast Air Quality Management District. We have chosen to build the eHighway demo system on Alameda Street, which is near the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. We chose Carson as a location, because there is a heavy amount of cargo truck activity on that street. For the demonstration project we are utilizing up to four cargo vehicles in partnership with VOLVO and local truck companies.
The goal of this eHighway project is to demonstrate the technology, that it works, and that there are tangible benefits, such as savings on fuel and other operating costs as well as reducing green-house gas emissions and improving the air quality. We feel strongly that air quality improvement, would be a major benefit to those who live and work around the port.
In the U.S. and in California, specifically, there is a real focus on improving air quality, especially around areas of heavy emissions. eHighway speaks directly to that issue.
Which areas would benefit the most from eHighways?
Dennis Rodriguez: I think any area where heavy cargo truck activity is concentrated would strongly benefit. If you look at the Southern California network of freeways, the cargo arrives at the ports and then is distributed, mainly across different freeways as part of that goods movement network.
You can apply the eHighway system across the freeway network in order to address the issue of emissions reductions as trucks connect to the system. The benefits can really be applied from a near port application all the way to a regional expansion.
How is the eHighway electrified?
Dennis Rodriguez: As part of our technology we build what is called a Traction Power Substation, which is basically a power distribution box that sits on the side of the road to power up the overhead catenary lines. This is a technology that Siemens has been using to power light rail lines and city transport systems for a long time. It’s safe, reliable, cost effective and something both pedestrians and drivers are very familiar with.
For the project in Carson, Siemens is supplying the substation, catenary system and four pantographs for integration with the truck partners.
How many trucks can be connected to the eHighway at the same time?
Dennis Rodriguez: This depends on the sizing and spacing of substations. Using tools developed for electric power supply for rail, Siemens has also simulated the use of eHighway on heavily used highways to confirm the concept’s potential.
What’s the timeframe for the pilot and what’s next?
Dennis Rodriguez: Once completed, the demonstration project in Carson will be in operation for an initial 12 month period. We are still working with Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and the City of Carson to determine the best outcome following that initial 12 month stretch.
What is the expected rate of trucks using the eHighway 5 to 10 years from the approval and build out?
Dennis Rodriguez: This depends greatly on what kind of system is built, whether it’s a connection between the port and the near dock rail yards, or if it extends all the way up the I-710 or even to the inland Empire. Gladstein, Neandross and Associates, a consultant company, wrote an analysis on behalf of AQMD and they found a potential market of between 400 to 45,000 trucks, depending on the size of the installed system.
Appointed by the Americas Cities Center of Competence as City Account Manager for Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego in October 2012, Dennis is responsible for establishing Siemens strategy for these metropolitan areas. As the lead City executive, Dennis will build the regional Siemens teams, establish relationships with key city and regional decision makers, and drive Siemens solutions into the respective markets.
The Cities Center of Competence (CoC) is dedicated to understanding the key challenges facing cities as they strive for economic growth and long term prosperity. The CoC strives to leverage the company’s global experience and deep portfolio of infrastructure solutions to help cities create and implement plans for the future.
Prior to joining Siemens, Dennis worked for Kindel Gagan in 2011, a public affairs firm where he delivered client services related to public affairs advocacy in Los Angeles. Preceding Kindel Gagan, Dennis spent eight years working under L.A. Councilmember Bernard C. Parks and was responsible for overseeing policy related items focused on the issues of economic development, transportation, environment and planning. Dennis is a native Angeleno and a proud graduate of California State University of Northridge and the University of Notre Dame Law School.