bin lorry refuse garbage collection

Old bin lorries receive electric resurrection

Image credit: DT

Electric motors are being used to return end-of-life bin lorries back to active duty in a trial taking place in a London borough.

It is hoped that ‘repowering’ will greatly extend the working life of high-value commercial and local authority vehicles, and cut air and noise pollution in residential areas.

The Greenwich trials will test the viability of the technology and make the economic case for repowering heavy commercial vehicles. The prototype will be tested alongside the existing refuse fleet, managed by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Refuse lorries operate in largely residential areas, with their diesel engines in constant use 14 hours per day, achieving only 2.5-4.5 miles per gallon and spewing out emissions including nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and particulate matter.

By replacing the diesel engine with an electric motor, the vehicle produces zero emissions in operation. It also greatly reduces noise pollution – a significant issue for urban residents.

Other trials of this type have been carried out before. In 2016 Fife retrofitted its bin lorries with a hydrogen propulsion system in similar bid to cut localised air pollution. 

It is estimated that the repowering modification for the Greenwich vehicle will double its operational life, extending it to 14 years, and generate a lifetime cost saving of up to £300,000 compared to a Euro 5 or older diesel-powered model.

The trial marks the culmination of a year-long technical development by a consortium comprising Magtec, a UK technology firm specialising in the electrification of vehicles, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and its urban innovation agency, DG Cities. 

The 26-tonne battery-powered, zero-emission refuse vehicle, dubbed eRCV, is designed to do a 14 hour ‘double-shift’ duty cycle without needing to recharge.

The eRCV project anticipates both growing demand for refuse vehicles and new air quality legislation that will affect 60,000 vehicles in London.

From 8 April 2019, Central London will become  an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Vehicles entering the area will need to meet tighter emission standards of 80mg/km or pay a daily charge of £12.50 for cars and £100 for most vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. 

In addition, from 26 October 2020, vehicles over 3.5 tonnes will need to meet the ULEZ standard across Greater London. Vehicles operated by local authorities will not be exempt.

The UK Department for Energy and Climate Change predicts average fuel prices to increase by more than 22 per cent from 2012-2030, prompting a case study of one company which estimated it could produce savings of up to 100,000 litres of fuel a day if it repowered its fleet of 800 vehicles. These fuel savings would result in significant financial savings for waste management authorities.

Magtec replaced the diesel engine and associated components of a Royal Borough of Greenwich-owned Mercedes Econic vehicle with an electric vehicle drivetrain. The company also replaced the engine-driven hydraulic system, which drives the rubbish compaction and bin lift systems, with an electric-powered system that is more efficient and quieter.

“We are delighted to be part of the consortium to develop and trial the first 26-tonne repowered electric refuse vehicle in the world,” said Royal Borough of Greenwich leader Danny Thorpe.

“I am particularly pleased that we are pioneering technology that will help address poor air quality. This further underlines our commitment to improving the environment, as reflected in our ambitious Greener Greenwich strategy.”

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