New battery-electric, zero-emissions drayage trucks by Kenworth and Volvo that are going into operation at the Port of Long Beach as part of 4 Gen Logistic's fleet. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Mario Cordero climbed into the cab and behind the wheel of a new semi-truck Tuesday. When he turned the key, only the faintest sound could be heard from the engine of the battery-electric, zero-emission Kenworth truck. When he hit the gas and the truck eased forward, it was nearly silent.

Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, along with city and state officials and executives from various companies celebrated 4 Gen Logistics’ and Electrify America’s move toward zero-emissions drayage trucking. With the help of state and federal funding, 4 Gen—which has bases both at the Port of Long Beach and in the Inland Empire—recently put in an order for 61 battery-electric trucks to use at the port.

“The port wants to be the greenest in the world, so we made a commitment all the way back in 2008,” David Duncan, the fourth-generation owner of 4 Gen, told the Business Journal. “We also see customer demand for it.”

4 Gen, which is approaching its 80th year of operations, has a fleet consisting of 60 diesel trucks and four battery-electric trucks, the latter of which have been in operation for about four years, said. The company recently ordered 41 Volvo and 20 Kenworth trucks that will come online over the next several years.

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero test drives a new battery-electric, zero-emissions drayage truck in the port complex Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

As the new generation of electric trucks comes online, 4 Gen will decommission its diesel trucks, Duncan said.

“4 Gen Logistics … will have a 100% zero-emission fleet starting in 2025, 10 years before it is required,” Duncan said during remarks at the event.

The California Air Resource Board voted in August to require all drayage trucks operating in the state to be zero-emission by 2035, which is in line with the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports’ Clean Air Action Plan. CARB will require all other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to be zero-emission by 2045.

But the new trucks are not cheap. Duncan said a diesel truck with a similar build runs about $150,000. The new Volvos and Kenworths, meanwhile, run about $450,000, he said.

Thanks to various grant programs through CARB, CALSTART, the twin ports and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, however, Duncan said the company only had to pay around the cost of a traditional diesel.

Gideon Kracov, an AQMD board member who was also appointed to CARB by Gov. Gavin Newsom, was on hand for the event, and praised the efforts by 4 Gen and the port.

“It’s no secret that Southern California suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the nation,” Kracov said, noting that goods movement by ship, train and trucks is the largest cause of pollution in the South Coast Basin.

“So everyday, [we] are working to find innovative and practical solutions to reduce air pollution and protect the health of the millions of people we serve.”

A new Volvo battery-electric semi truck and an Electrify America charging station at the Port of Long Beach Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

To that end, the South Coast Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Committee provided $7 million toward the trucks and accompanying electric infrastructure, Kracov said.

Electrify America, in partnership with 4 Gen, will install “massive” multi-watt battery energy storage systems at the port and in Rialto, which will store energy during off peak times to allow for trucks to continue operating uninterrupted and without overworking the power grid, Duncan said. The companies also will operate over 90 charging stations between the two locations, he said.

The charging stations will have the capability to fully recharge the trucks in three hours, Duncan said. The Volvo trucks can travel about 220 miles on a single charge, while the Kenworths have a range of about 150 miles, which means the Kenworth trucks will stay local, while the Volvos make trips to the Inland Empire, Duncan said.

During the event, Niki Okuk, alternative fuels program manager with CALSTART, a nonprofit that has worked with the shipping industry for 30 years to lower emissions, noted that when she joined the program three years ago, there was not a single zero-emission semi-truck on the market. She praised all the partners involved in bringing these trucks to market.

“As someone whose family has lived on this freight corridor for generations, whose family has worked in these trucks, who is also raising three small children who go to school not far from this exact place, I extend my deep gratitude,” Okuk said. “Thank you for protecting the lives of my family, of my children.”

Two people check out a new Kenworth battery-electric, zero-emissions drayage truck at the Port of Long Beach Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Business Journal.