January 28, 2022

Jean-Daniel Saphores, Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Irvine


Not Your Father’s Heavy-Duty Trucks: Electric trucks as a substitute for new road infrastructure


1:40pm - 3:00pm




Electrification of trucking combined with connected and automated technologies promise to cut the cost of freight transportation, reduce its environmental footprint, and make roads safer. If electric trucks are powerful enough to cease behaving as moving bottlenecks, they could also increase the capacity of existing roads and reduce the demand for new road infrastructure, a consequence that has so far been understudied. To explore the potential traffic impacts of replacing conventional heavy-duty drayage trucks with electric and/or connected trucks, we performed microscopic traffic simulations on a network centered on I-710, the country’s most important economic artery, between the San Pedro Bay Ports and downtown Los Angeles, in Southern California. In addition to a 2012 baseline, we analyzed twelve scenarios for the year 2035 characterized by three levels of road improvements and four types of heavy-duty port trucks (HDPT). Our results show that 1,000 hp electric/hydrogen trucks (eTs) can be a substitute for additional road capacity in busy freight corridors. While CACC-connected conventional HDPTs would only slightly increase network speeds, replacing conventional HDPTs with eTs and improving selected I-710 ramps should be sufficient to absorb the forecast increases in drayage demand for 2035 without adding a controversial lane to I-710. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for the traffic impacts of new vehicle technologies in infrastructure planning and suggest shifting funding from building new capacity to financing 1,000 hp electric connected trucks in freight corridors until the market for these vehicles has matured.

Biographical Sketch

Jean-Daniel Saphores is a Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California Irvine, and a core member of the Institute of Transportation Studies. He earned a PhD in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, an MS in Environmental Systems Engineering, and an MA in Economics, from Cornell University. He focuses on transportation and environmental systems, which he analyzes using statistical and economic methods, combined with simulation and optimization tools. His active research interests include transportation and the environment (especially as it relates to air pollution and energy use), travel behavior analysis, alternative fuel vehicles, automated vehicles, transit use, sustainable infrastructure management, as well as decision making under uncertainty using real options.

Thank you for your interest in the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. Subscribe today to keep up with the latest ITS news and happenings.

Join Our Mailing List