Electrification of Utility Tractors at Maritime Container Ports; Evaluating the Societal Impact of Electrification at Port of Virginia

Haywood, Henry, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Earle, Joshua, University of Virginia

Maritime container ports use various technologies to achieve decarbonization, including investing in the electrification of vehicles and facilities. The technical portion of this project presents a mathematical simulation used to predict and avoid disruptions and surprises, including evolving requirements, organizations, contract negotiations, anomalous demands, supply chains, grid outages, workforce behaviors, commodity and service markets, obsolescence, regulation, and environmental protection. This simulation explores the integration of electric vehicles into freight operations of a maritime container port. It also enables the comparison of alternative configurations and capacities of chargers over several time horizons. Likewise, the effort optimizes performance indices for managers, users, and customers, including emissions, resource utilization, costs, and energy.
Currently, ports are advancing sustainability goals by replacing diesel-powered utility tractor rigs (UTRs) with their electric counterparts to reduce emissions while maintaining operational effectiveness. As ports face a variety of stressors and catastrophic events such as the 2024 collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, understanding how electric infrastructure will impact both the internal network resilience to surges in twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and national maritime resilience is key in deciding how much and in what order this infrastructure is put in place. This transition underscores the need for an analysis of the infrastructure necessary for electric UTRs.
Further, the technical portion of this project aims to identify the optimal configuration for the Port of Virginia to successfully integrate these electrically charged UTRs, focusing particularly on the port layout and amount of various technical equipment required for this transition. By developing a simulation model and comparing it against various modified 2 scenarios, the study aims to find efficient, economical, and environmentally beneficial configurations. The performance of the several configurations is evaluated to recommend paths for the electrification of the port. This analysis assists in implementing and forecasting the long-term sustainability of port operations in transitioning to electric vehicles.
The STS Paper portion of this project explores the socio-economic and environmental impact of the electrification initiative at the Port of Virginia. The port is a major economic engine for the state which handles over 4 million containers annually, significantly contributing to both state and local economies and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs. The STS Paper examines the changes in the transition toward electrification, focusing primarily on the integration of electric UTRs. Using Actor-Network Theory, the paper delves into the complexities of this transformation, analyzing the relationships among a diverse array of stakeholders, including port management, government bodies, local communities, and port workers. This framework helps to illuminate how each stakeholder will be affected by and contribute to the electrification process.
Economically, the paper assesses how the shift to electric-powered operations might alter job dynamics and economic activity in the surrounding Norfolk Community. Environmentally, it evaluates the potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and how this could improve local air quality and overall public health. Additionally, the paper considers the role of the government in facilitating this transition through policies, subsidies, and grants. By highlighting the interdependencies between technological upgrades and policy frameworks, the paper underscores the critical role of coordinated efforts in achieving successful electrification. Throughout the paper, multiple case studies and expert analyses are drawn upon to predict the possible outcomes of these initiatives.
Ultimately, the STS Paper portion of this project provides a thorough analysis of the port of Virginia’s electrification, offering insights into the potential benefits and challenges of this initiative. It projects not only the transformative impact on the local economy and environment but also the broader implications for community welfare and sustainability

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Systems Evaluation, Decarbonization, Fleet Vehicles, Optimization, Mathematical Simulation

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering

Technical Advisor: James Lambert

STS Advisor: Joshua Earle

Technical Team Members: Matthew Cha, Zachary Goss, Bethany Bazemore, Brodie Dye

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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