Autonomous, electric terminal tractor units at the Port of Felixstowe

Hutchinson Ports Case Study

Hutchison Ports set a target achieve net zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions for its three UK ports by 2035, establishing science-based targets to reach net zero globally by 2050.

In a move close to this target, Hutchinson Ports has introduced a fleet of electric autonomous terminal tractor units (ATs) into mixed traffic container terminal operations – understood to be the first port in Europe to do so. The first batch of 34 battery-powered units have been delivered, supplied by Westwell.

Following a tender process that included thorough testing and evaluation, Port of Felixstowe and Westwell signed an agreement for a total of 100 battery-powered autonomous Q-Trucks with battery swapping facilities.

Hutchison Ports first introduced Westwell’s Q-Trucks in Thailand’s Laem Chabang Port in 2020. Fifteen Q-Trucks run in mixed mode operation with no separation from other traffic and have handled over 334,000 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) moves since their introduction.

The ATs use a digital map loaded to a fleet management system, which controls the navigation around the port. The AT then combines that map with its onboard GPS navigation to track its real-time position.

Safety being of paramount importance, the ATs have been through a thorough commissioning and testing programme. The ATs use LiDAR - a light sensing technology that creates a 3D map of an AT’s surroundings using a laser and receiver, which, when combined with its onboard 360-degree cameras, provide real-time, all-round ‘vision’. This enables the AT to ‘see’ everything instantaneously in its vicinity to allow safe and accurate navigation. With the support of an extreme precise position (EPP) system, the AT can achieve positioning accuracy of 2cm and a steering angle accuracy of 0.5 degrees.

Safety being of paramount importance, the ATs have been through a thorough commissioning and testing programme

The ATs were used initially to transport containers between the port’s Trinity and North Rail terminals.

Supporting the AT operation, the Port of Felixstowe commissioned two new 11KV high voltage substations in 2023 to serve the charging infrastructure for its expanding electric vehicle fleet. Each substation will enable 20 vehicles to be charged at any one time at the port’s Trinity Terminal.

To tackle Scope 2 emissions and ensure that sustainable electricity is used to power port equipment, the Port of Felixstowe signed a new deal in April which ensures that all the electricity it uses is certified as being generated by solar, offshore wind or other renewable sources.

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