Designing for the future

Designing for the future

BYD’s John Gerra discusses advancements and trends in electric refuse trucks.

Since Los Angeles-based Build Your Dreams (BYD) began designing and testing its Generation 1 electric refuse truck for the waste industry in 2015, the company has observed a growing interest among small and large waste management companies to deploy electric fleets. The company predicts battery-powered trucks will be the dominant technology on the road in the U.S. in the next couple of years.

John Gerra, BYD director of business development, electric trucks, talked with Waste Today about how BYD got its start, advancements and trends in electric refuse trucks and factors operators should consider before making investments in an electric fleet.

Waste Today (WT): How did BYD get started?

John Gerra (JG): BYD was founded in 1995 as an advanced battery manufacturer, designing and building batteries for some of the first mobile electronics. We’ve grown to become one of the largest battery and electronics manufacturers in the world, building systems for everything from smartphones up to the largest utility-scale energy storage systems. In 2010, BYD delivered its first battery-electric passenger car. Today, we are the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer. Our product line includes cars, buses, forklifts, trucks and rail systems. To date, we’ve delivered more than 50,000 electric buses and more than 8,000 electric trucks globally.

WT: What technology advancements led to the development of electric trucks?

JG: BYD’s proprietary battery technology allows us to store enough energy on the truck to complete daily operations. In addition, we design and build everything, including the batteries, controls and motors in our electric refuse trucks. By designing and building the entire electric truck as a system, this allows us to effectively integrate all critical hardware and software. BYD is the only company in the world with control over the entire scope of design and manufacturing, including all components. This leads to increased reliability and therefore increased uptime.

WT: Why did BYD start designing electric collection trucks?

JG: It’s critical to put electric trucks into operations that make sense. These are vehicles that need to go to work every day and finish the job. We studied all trucking operations, from local delivery to long haul, and identified some of the best applications for electric trucks. Waste collection is great because of the “start-stop” nature of operation. BYD’s electric motors operate very efficiently in this type of operation. In 2015, BYD made significant investment in designing and testing its Generation 1 refuse trucks. These first trucks have been in operation since 2017. With the success of Generation 1, we added battery capacity for Generation 2. We’re now delivering the first Generation 2 refuse trucks and already taking orders for our new Generation 3 refuse trucks for 2020 deliveries, with even more battery capacity.

WT: What benefits do haulers see when they transition to electric refuse trucks?

JG: The immediate benefit is a reduction in operating costs for the hauler. We typically see about 80 percent savings when we look at fuel consumption alone. And an electric powertrain has significantly fewer moving parts than a combustion system, leading to higher reliability and lower maintenance costs. High reliability, low heat, low vibration, very quiet and clean operation. These are all benefits for the drivers as well. Due to low noise and low vibration, drivers can actually hear their environment leading to safer operation and reducing occupational health hazards. With electric refuse trucks, municipalities make a good investment for the community, haulers reduce costs and achieve full compliance with all emissions regulations and residents receive quiet collection services with clean air. It works out pretty well.

WT: GreenWaste, California, was the first to use electric refuse trucks in 2017. Since then, why has there been movement in the market to purchase electric trucks?

JG: We’re seeing a significant increase in orders among companies of all sizes, including small regional haulers all the way up to large national companies. Many have aggressive sustainability initiatives. We can help reduce carbon footprint immediately. Some go electric just to reduce operating costs and to see a positive financial payback. Others are using electric trucks as a competitive advantage to win new contracts with municipalities. We’ll see electric trucks become a requirement for haulers bidding new contracts. Municipalities are starting to require electric trucks and the haulers willing to bid electric will win these contracts.

Back in 2017, some of our first customers started with only one truck. Now that we’ve proven the systems, and have the confidence of the market, haulers are placing larger orders for our Generation 3 refuse truck, the BYD 8R Class 8.

WT: How does BYD work with operators to ensure they’re making the right investment?

JG: When we look at the challenges of deploying electric refuse trucks, we work closely with operators to determine which routes can be the most successful, given the current state of technology. As BYD’s battery technology advances, we find we can store more kWh on the truck and complete longer distance routes.

Most important is to understand the details of the specific route that you plan to deploy an electric truck. This allows us to calculate how much energy (kWh) that truck will consume in a day. We then confirm if electric is a viable solution for a specific route. We look at factors such as distance, time, and work (how many homes are being serviced). The truck body consumes energy as well, so we like to know the details of the specific operation. The shorter the distance, the more work the truck can do, so if you can put the truck to work right out of the yard, this is an ideal situation.

With all the data we’ve collected on different types of routes over the years, we can estimate the energy consumption very accurately. This lets us determine if an electric truck has enough kWh to get through a specific route. First and foremost, we want to make sure that when we put a truck to work, the performance and endurance exceed everyone’s expectations. As we continue to add battery capacity, we’ll expand into longer distance routes.

WT: When does BYD predict electric refuse trucks will become dominant in the market?

JG: Battery electric is already the dominant technology in many cities around the world. In the U.S., I believe that battery electric heavy-duty trucks will be the dominant technology within the next two to three years.

The transition to heavy-duty electric trucks is happening right now. In applications, such as delivery, logistics, marine and rail operations, mining, construction and of course trash collection, electric trucks are ready to go to work today. End-users recognize that electric trucks provide more efficient operation, lower operating costs and create a cleaner, safer work environment for drivers. And local communities see an immediate benefit with zero emissions and very low noise. As soon as 2020, we’ll see many more electric trucks on the road in the U.S.