The transportation sector is one of the largest consumers of energy. The energy consumption of the freight sector is growing faster than the overall sector, according to researchers. This is the case of light trucks and medium/heavy trucks that consume 32.1 percent and 22.7 percent of the energy consumed in the sector.

To address this, energy agencies throughout the world have fostered the use of novel engine technologies and fuels, and improved fuel consumption standards. In addition, with the intention to gain real-world experience to improve transportation efficiency, the Department of Energy announced that Rensselaer is among five organizations that received competitively awarded, cost-shared funding as part of a $13.4 million investment in community-based advanced transportation projects.

Rensselaer will receive $2 million—in collaboration with private sector companies and local transportation agencies—to foster changes in freight demand patterns to reduce energy use, enhance quality of life, improve economic productivity, incorporate efficient practices into freight logistics, and publish lessons learned.

“This initiative represents a visionary investment in energy and transportation infrastructure in our region and beyond,” said Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-20). “Public-private partnerships like this one are well-positioned to harness our region’s leadership and further cement our status as a hub of technological development and transformative innovation. The work that emerges from this collaboration will foster groundbreaking developments in advanced freight transportation and advanced manufacturing, enhance resiliency in the face of disaster, strengthen our local and national economic competitiveness, and help us build a 21st-century workforce. Congratulations to all involved and special thanks to RPI for their outstanding leadership.”

In addition to Rensselaer, other recipients include Pecan Street Inc., based in Austin, Texas; City of Seattle Department of Transportation; Center for Transportation and the Environment in Atlanta, Georgia; and the Metropolitan Energy Center Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. The five cost-shared, community-based projects focus on energy-efficient mobility systems including connected and autonomous vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure including natural gas, propane, biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity.

The projects will serve as “living labs” to test new ideas, collect data, and inform research on energy-efficient transportation technologies and systems.

The Rensselaer project, titled “Collaborative Approaches to Energy-Efficient Logistics in the Albany – New York City Corridor,” features a collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, George Mason University, and multiple public and private-sector organizations operating in the Albany and NYC regions. The project will be led by José Holguín-Veras, the William H. Hart Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Center for Infrastructure, Transportation, and the Environment (CITE) at Rensselaer.

“The chief tenet of this project is that achieving energy-efficient logistics requires a profound behavioral change of supply chains that could only be accomplished if the private and public sectors work together,” said Holguín-Veras. “The key is to implement changes in behavior that lead to energy savings in the operations of not only freight carriers, but receivers, suppliers, and ultimately, the general public who may influence supply chains. Achieving this goal requires the design and implementation of data-driven research and the use of collaborative public-private-sector approaches, to change urban supply chains for the better.”

According to Holguin-Veras, the Albany – New York City living lab will fully exploit behavior-based research approaches developed by the team during the NYC Off-Hours Delivery project to reduce the energy consumption of freight activity; and design and pilot test Energy-Efficient Logistics (EEL) initiatives to simultaneously reduce energy use and emissions, increase profits, and improve quality of life.

“This high-priority ‘living lab’ work will focus on the vital, yet often neglected, freight sector, with an innovative approach that will yield significant reductions in energy use,” Holguín-Veras said. “A powerful feature of the operational concepts developed by RPI’s research is their business-friendly nature. Thus, the private sector will be an ally.”

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