Rensselaer Awarded Multimillion-Dollar Grant To Study Freight Transportation

Federal funding part of effort to electrify long-haul tractor-trailers

January 27, 2022


The Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment (CITE) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will engage in research to advance understanding of the freight transportation industry in conjunction with the Super Truck 3 program at the U.S. Department of Energy. The investigation and analysis, currently underway, reinforce the strong commitment across Rensselaer to addressing the climate crisis and finding meaningful solutions that will reduce carbon emissions. These efforts align with President Joe Biden’s push for sustainability as announced by Vice President Kamala Harris.

Rensselaer will receive $2 million over four years as a portion of a larger $18 million grant awarded to Volvo Group North America to pioneer electrified medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight system concepts that achieve even higher efficiency and lower emissions. CITE at Rensselaer is a key member of the consortium of academic partners and industry sponsors led by Volvo dedicated to investigating new ways of infusing sustainability and efficiency into the way businesses send and receive goods.

“Without a doubt, fostering energy-efficient logistics is a critical element in the fight against climate change,” said José Holguín-Veras, director of CITE. “With the support of the Super Truck 3 funding, and the deep expertise of our partners, CITE can continue its mission of developing solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems.”

Dr. Holguín-Veras, a preeminent transportation-engineering expert and a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer, will lead the research team in the study of current energy consumption and emissions in the trucking industry, as well as the characterization of freight activity to establish baseline conditions. Using computer modeling, the center will also identify system innovations and “likely-use” scenarios of the Zero Emission Truck Technology for semitrucks and tractor-trailers.

“In order for these new, green technologies to have the greatest financial and social impact, it is critical for policymakers to know exactly how the freight industry will use them and, most importantly, what policymakers could do to accelerate adoption of electric trucks,” Dr. Holguín-Veras said. “With the innovative computer modeling algorithms we’ve developed at Rensselaer, we can provide that information to offer the public sector sound advice.”

CITE will focus its study in two different geographic areas: the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee and the I-81 corridor between Dublin, Virginia, to Macungie, Pennsylvania to investigate the potential of electric trucks in both urban and intercity conditions.

Dr. Holguín-Veras, long-known for his expertise in transportation, supply chain, and disaster logistics, has recently produced research on the shift in consumer behavior toward remote work and online commerce since the start of the pandemic, inequities in the delivery of urban freight, and the impact of behavior changes on emissions and delivery costs.

Rensselaer, a leading research hub in addressing questions of sustainability, created the Institute for Energy, the Built Environment, and Smart Systems (EBESS) to develop infrastructure that is both net-zero and climate resilient through the use of renewable energy systems, sentient building platforms, and new materials. Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson announced the launch of EBESS in 2021 at the Leaders Summit on Climate hosted by President Biden.

Written By Jeanne Hedden Gallagher
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