DOE awards ICT $1.5M for sustainable freight transportation

11/1/2023 Kent Reel

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Illinois Center for Transportation $1.5 million to research sustainable intermodal freight transportation.

The 30-month DOE project will develop an innovative approach to freight and energy systems modeling that focuses on low-carbon and resilient freight transport.

Yanfeng Ouyang, ICT associate director for mobility & George Krambles Endowed Professor in Rail and Public Transit, leads the project. The DOE funding is managed by the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under its INcreasing Transportation Efficiency and Resiliency through MODeling Assets and Logistics (INTERMODAL) Exploratory Topic.

Ouyang is joined by fellow ICT researchers Imad Al-Qadi, Jeffery Roesler, Alireza Talebpour, and Angeli Jayme.

Partnering with ICT are University of California Irvine’s Stephen Ritchie and Argonne National Laboratory’s Natalia Zuniga.

The ICT team will create data and computational models to focus on data-driven intermodal logistics analysis and critical infrastructure planning.

Data-driven intermodal logistics analysis examines the movement of goods across various transportation modes, factoring in efficiency, cost, energy and environmental impacts.

Critical infrastructure planning focuses on the strategic development of transportation and energy infrastructure, balancing current needs with long-term sustainability and decarbonization.

Ritchie’s team will work on establishing a prototype freight data hub. This hub, leveraging existing public databases and instrumented sensor data from California testbeds, will serve as a central repository of information on intermodal freight operations. It's envisioned to be both a foundational tool and a benchmark for logistics optimization models.

Zuniga’s team will integrate new data and computation modules into a multimodal visualization and simulation platform, enhancing the understanding of national multimodal transport planning.

“We applaud DOE ARPA-E for investing resources in intermodal freight logistics, as this area significantly impacts our nation’s economy and environmental sustainability and simultaneously faces pressing challenges associated with fragmented data, obscure visibility, saturated bottlenecks, vulnerable links and lack of a unified analysis platform,” Ouyang said.

The anticipated outcomes of the project include an open computational platform and virtual testbed that address these concerns.

The ICT project is one of six DOE projects funded nationwide, totaling $9 million, in an initiative to integrate maritime, rail and road transportation systems. Its focus is on reducing emissions as well as improving logistics and system resilience.