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Tech firm develops largest all-electric cargo mover machine — and it could revolutionize the shipping industry

"We'd like to get to a point where we can … put it on an electric truck."

"We’d like to get to a point where we can ... put it on an electric truck."

Photo Credit: Sennebogen

An all-electric cargo moving machine operating in Connecticut's New Haven Harbor may be giving us a glimpse into a cleaner future for the shipping industry. 

As detailed by CT Insider, the massive green cargo mover, developed by German manufacturer Sennebogen, is expected to eliminate the need for roughly 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel. This means dock workers and residents will be breathing easier. 

On its website, Sennebogen promises that its handler — the largest of its type in the world — offers "extreme power," reaching up to 40 meters, with an operating weight of roughly 420 tons. 

The manufacturer offers a diesel or hybrid version of the handler, but the Port of New Haven's Gateway Terminal opted for an all-electric version with a 500-kilowatt motor. That means the handler releases zero tailpipe pollution during operation. 

CT Insider explains that the terminal included infrastructure upgrades in the $7.5 million cost of the mover, enabling the equipment to operate effectively. Around $3.1 million of that came from state grants. 

Only three ports in the United States have the new Sennebogen machines. If more ports adopted the equipment, though, it would be great news for our health, the industry, and our planet. 

Diesel engines produce less carbon monoxide than gas-powered ones, but they still release the potentially deadly fumes. The dirty fuel has also been linked to issues like asthma and impaired brain function. A number of schools have even been embracing electric-powered buses instead of diesel-fueled ones. 

Meanwhile, the Environmental Defense Fund notes that around 11 billion tons of goods are shipped across our oceans annually. If the sector were a country, it would be the sixth-most polluting worldwide. 

That pollution, much of it from diesel, is also ultimately bad for companies' bottom lines, with the nonprofit highlighting that "increasingly powerful storms" linked to rising temperatures can result in damaged ships and lost merchandise. 

Hydrogen-powered cargo ships are among the developing solutions to reduce air pollution and water contamination from the ships, but once those goods reach their ports, they have to be unloaded. 

However, the transition to electric cargo equipment has been slow, partly because of the massive amounts of weight these machines need to haul. Just last year, for example, the port in San Diego debuted the first electric cargo crane in North America. 

Gateway Terminal president Greg Baribault believes that electric equipment can eventually become the norm. This move will cut fuel and maintenance costs, as many happy owners of electric vehicles have also discovered in their personal transportation.   

"We'd like to get to a point where we can unload a ship with an electric crane, put it on an electric truck, bring it to our warehouse, and unload it with an electric forklift and store it in our warehouse until it goes out to an end user," he told CT Insider. 

Gateway has plans to roll out similar systems at all 21 of its port facilities. 

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