The future of collection trucks — it’s electric!

Columns - Waste Watch

It’s only a matter of time before electric refuse trucks become more mainstream.

August 3, 2017

Having moved recently to southern California (or SoCal, as locals call it), the growth in the use of electric cars is clearly evident. Everywhere you look, there are electric cars from Tesla, BMW, Nissan, Chevrolet and Ford. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids crowd the remaining space on the roads. Californians often are considered unique in the U.S., but there are two other reasons why there are so many electric cars in SoCal:

  • traffic is difficult, and all electric cars (including plug-in hybrids and some nonplug-in hybrids) qualify to use the state’s high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes; and
  • significant federal and state stimulus for electric vehicles. Pending state legislation, the California Electric Vehicle Initiative (AB1184), would greatly increase funding for electric vehicles.

Electric car sales in the U.S. have seen more than 70 percent growth in the past year. Since they are only approximately 1 percent of all U.S. car sales, continued growth opportunities are significant.

Trucks, Too

Electric trucks also are on the horizon, and some are already here. In April, Elon Musk unveiled plans to build two electric trucks, including a semitruck and pickup truck. Earlier in the year, Daimler, Stuttgart, Germany, released a test version of its electric semitruck. Smaller brands, such as VIA Motors, Orem, Utah, already are selling all electric pickup trucks.

Here in SoCal, an electric refuse collection truck (developed by BYD, Shenzhen, China, and Wayne Engineering, Cedar Falls, Iowa) was tested in early 2017 in Los Angeles. The city’s sanitation department tested the electric truck on the same routes as its other trucks. The electric truck averaged 4 tons per day of refuse collected and had range of approximately 100 miles per day.

Last month, Sacramento, California, added an all-electric refuse collection truck to its fleet, a first in California. The truck was built by Motiv, Foster City, California. Chicago also has contracted with Motiv to build up to 20 electric trucks. The city required that the electric trucks meet the demands of its current refuse collection fleet, including a 60-mile range and a payload of 9 tons.

What is the impact?

Electric collection trucks will provide cleaner and healthier air in the cities where they operate. They will not create emissions, which will improve local air quality, and the electricity used to recharge batteries will come from a power generator with an individual emission point and pollution control equipment.

Electric car sales in the U.S. have seen more than 70 percent growth in the past year. Since they are only approximately 1 percent of all U.S. car sales, continued growth opportunities are significant.

Increasingly, our utility electricity supply comes from renewable sources. Currently, the U.S. gets about 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, and this is on an upward trajectory. This renewable energy can come from solid waste. Solid waste complexes can be developed that not only handle refuse but that also produce electricity.

In addition to cleaner air and opportunities for renewable energy generation, electric trucks are quieter, which reduces noise pollution.

Charging ahead

Time will tell if electric collection vehicles will become a significant component of solid waste collection systems, but a few things are clear. Electric trucks will make the most sense in densely populated areas, where collection is most efficient. It also is in these densely populated areas that electric trucks will have the biggest impact on the local air quality and on human health. Neighborhoods also will be quieter.

Electric trucks may create opportunities such as new renewable energy from waste generation.

Over the next few years, data will be collected on the performance of electric trucks and used to improve performance. If you ask me, the future of collection trucks is electric!