IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

New York City Begins Electrifying Its Garbage Truck Fleet

The Sanitation Department has been gradually electrifying its garbage collection fleet, starting with retrofitting trucks with technology that uses highly efficient ultracapacitors for energy storage.

A New York City sanitation worker and garbage truck
New York City has been experimenting with electric vehicle technology in some of its garbage collection trucks, saving fuel, reducing greenhouse gases and paving the way for a more electrified city fleet.

The trucks are a form of hybrid-electric. However, the technology, developed by the Canadian company Développement Effenco Inc. (“Effenco”), does not use typical lithium-ion batteries common to EVs and hybrids. Instead, the trucks use ultracapacitors, which store relatively quick-use bursts of electricity. The power is used to operate functions like compaction and other high-energy jobs generally needed when the vehicle is not moving. 

“Ultracapacitors, we believe, are better suited for heavy-duty and high-power applications. The downside is you can’t store a lot of energy in them … But in terms of cycling, they can do millions of cycles with no effect on battery life,” said Effenco President David Arsenault.  

“It’s well adapted for race cars and heavy-duty trucks,” he added. 

The hybrid nature of the system means that no charging infrastructure is needed, which can yield a 30 percent savings in fuel consumption, according to the company .  

The Sanitation Department in New York City started off by retrofitting 12 refuse collection trucks with the Effenco technology, said Rocco DiRico, deputy commissioner for the New York City Department of Sanitation. 

“Preliminary test results were very positive,” said DiRico. 

The Sanitation Department then ordered 14 more trucks, these with factory-installed Effenco technology. 

In February of last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order mandating a fully electric municipal fleet by 2040. The direction taken by the mayor “has a very ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goal and reprioritizes the environmental direction of the NYC fleet,” said DiRico. 

Electrifying fleets like garbage trucks benefits not just the environment, but residents and those working on and around the vehicles through significant reductions in noise and noxious gases, said Arsenault. 

Worker unions have viewed this feature as a big bonus because it makes the trucks safer. 

“There’s a lot of accidents among waste collection operators. They don’t hear each other, but they also don’t hear the cars that are coming around because the diesel engine is making so much noise,” said Arsenault. 

The technology could also be expanded in the near future. Effenco recently announced high-intensity wireless charging station technology for use with its ultracapacitors, which could mean charging points along a designated route. This wireless charging technology is not yet in operation. 

“So there’s no need to plug it overnight or something,” remarked Arsenault. “As it does the route, there are some areas where the vehicle’s operation is immobile, and we want to make sure that we can leverage data and we can have a wireless charging point located at that same place, so that as they do the work, they can also top off the ultra-caps.” 

“That’s the key for us to unlock full electrification and achieve coverage of the entire range of the vehicle electrically,” he added.  

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.