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Electric Garbage Trucks for Urban Refuse Management


April 20, 2023

Think of electric vehicles and your mind will conjure images of Tesla — innovative, headline-grabbing, clean electric power solutions that have taken the world by storm. 

But did you know that the future of EV fleets goes beyond private-use vehicles?  

Garbage trucks are part of the road to sustainability — and we have the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) to thank for that. The pioneering state acquired a Mack LR demonstration electric truck in September 2020. Its reliability, public safety, and driving experience made it a success, giving regulators the push they need to make the switch. 

How Do Electric Trucks Work?

Electric trucks give you the best power and performance. 

Most electric trucks on the market today use lithium-ion batteries to power two electric motors. They ensure higher energy efficiency, low self-discharge, and excellent high-temperature performance while supporting recycling and material recovery. 

They function with the help of a two-speed transmission, a device that streamlines torque delivery and delivers power to the drive wheels, enhancing overall performance. 

Here’s where it gets interesting: Most, if not all electric trucks have a regenerative braking system that slows down a moving vehicle. When that happens, it transfers the energy back to the motors, effectively working as a generator by feeding power back to the batteries.    

Traditional Refuse Truck vs Electric Garbage Trucks

Electric trucks are better than traditional trucks in three distinctive ways: instant torque while driving, lower maintenance for fleets, and a smaller form factor.

EV Garbage Trucks Deliver Instant Torque 

Electric garbage trucks can produce instant torque from zero revolutions per minute (RPM) when you hit the accelerator, which propels the vehicle to move down the road right away. Traditional diesel refuse trucks, on the other hand, generate a much higher torque, but they have to reach a specific RPM first. Hence, electric garbage trucks have an obvious advantage over their conventional counterparts when it comes to towing and carrying material over steep slopes. 

Low Maintenance for EV Fleets

Electric garbage trucks have fewer moving parts, so there’s less wear and tear on components, which translates to a much smaller number of potential failures during waste management operations. 

Additionally, with no gaskets to replace or oil to change, they keep maintenance costs low while being highly productive. Of course, it’s not devoid of upkeep costs, but because the batteries can maintain a stable driving range for more than 100,000 miles, electric garbage trucks can be much easier to keep on the road than trucks with internal combustion engines. 

The diesel model also requires low maintenance which is why many people remain divided on the issue of electric garbage trucks vs traditional diesel trucks. However, truth be told, they still cannot match the power of EVs owing to diesel trucks’ frequent oil changes and the short service life of major components. 

Optimum and Clever Storage Options for EV Vehicles

Electric garbage trucks do not have bulky internal combustion engines like traditional trucks. This leaves users with several extra cubic feet under the hood called the “frunk”, which is a valuable feature if you plan to lug as much garbage around as possible. 

Also, because electric trucks don’t require a transmission system, they have larger cabins, so operators have extra space for people and luggage. 

What Is the Benefit of an Electric Garbage Truck?

Gas-powered refuse trucks run consistent routes, but since they often spend a lot of time picking up and loading waste, they increase the risk of global warming and reduce air quality. 

Electric garbage trucks can eliminate these concerns. 

  • Electric trucks offer zero tailpipe emissions, so they don’t contribute to greenhouse gases or create air pollution. It’s even possible to further reduce their environmental impact by choosing renewable energy sources for charging.
  • The start-and-stop nature of electric garbage trucks is predictable. This makes them easier to charge since “they’re home every night at the same location,” according to Scott Barraclough, product manager at Mack Trucks. So, you can charge them at night at home, much like you would charge your cell phone. 
  • EV garbage trucks are 50% quieter than traditional combustion engines, so they can move anytime without causing noise pollution.

While the last point is an advantage, it can also pose risks to pedestrians who will find it harder to detect when a vehicle is approaching. Thankfully, DSNY has found a solution: installing artificial noise makers in electric garbage trucks to alert pedestrians of their arrival. 

Pretty amazing, wouldn’t you agree? 

Well, it seems Republic Services — one of the biggest waste disposal companies — shares the same sentiment. After accepting its first electric truck in October 2020, the company began working with truck manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation to design a fleet of super safe and sustainable garbage trucks. They have plans of distributing the new fleet across the country starting in the early fall of 2023.

How Much Does an Electric Garbage Truck Cost?

An electric garbage truck costs around $500,000 to $600,000, almost double the cost of a fuel-powered garbage truck. Its carrying capacity is more or less the same. However, the hefty price tag of electric garbage trucks can be justified if you factor in low operating costs, low maintenance costs, and no fuel costs. Hence, electric garbage trucks are the most cost-effective option in the long run. 

Will Electric Garbage Trucks Reduce State Spending?

Electric vehicles are much better for the environment than vehicles with traditional combustion engines — and the best part is they also reduce state spending. 

Lower Running Costs 

Traditional trucks have a high fuel consumption. When you factor in the added garbage weight, it takes more power and fuel to move the vehicle

That isn’t a problem with an electric garbage truck for collecting waste. 

Electric trucks are powered by batteries, not expensive imported fossil fuels. 

On average, states spend around $1.22 for driving more or less the same distance as a fuel-powered vehicle on a gallon of gasoline. This means governments spend less than half of what they’d pay with traditional vehicles. Plus, renewable sources of energy can be used to power these vehicles, which can make electricity costs even lower.

Low Maintenance Costs 

Electric vehicles have fewer fluids and moving parts. Compared with the 2,000 or so moving parts found in an internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV), EVs are a lot simpler to maintain, especially since they have regenerative braking features that don’t wear out their brake systems. 

Go Green With Electric Garbage Trucks 

The electric garbage transport truck is part of a sustainable future.

At Ampcontrol, we provide end-to-end EV charging management solutions to help you improve the safety and efficiency of your fleet. Our charging and energy management system is ideal for all types of fleets from garbage trucks to school buses, and more. We can help you set up your charging infrastructure in the most favorable way possible. Ampcontrol’s load management solutions can help you charge vehicles according to demand and when electricity rates are lowest. To know more about the features we offer, contact us or request a demo.

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