In a striking example of recycling, a refuse lorry working the streets of the Royal Borough of Greenwich has been retrofitted with an electric motor, replacing the diesel engine which had propelled the vehicle for 14 years during its operating lifetime. The lorry, which now estimated to have another 14 years of useful life, will shortly begin real-world trials

The project is the culmination of a year-long technical development by a consortium comprising vehicle education specialist Magtec, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and its urban innovation agency, DG Cities. Part-funded by Innovate UK, the project saw the 26-tonne vehicle fitted with an electric drive system that also powers its hydraulic compactor and bin lift, and according to Magtec adds only 400kg to the vehicle’s curb weight, including its power pack, while also improving weight distribution. It is claimed to be nearly silent in operation.

Diesel powered refuse lorries operate with their diesel engines in constant use for 14 hours a day, running even while the vehicle is stationary as they also power the hydraulic systems, and achieving typical fuel economy of only 2.5 to 4.5 miles per gallon. Associated air quality issues include emissions of NOx, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and sooty particulates, while the noise of their operation is a constant factor in their operation, mainly in residential areas. According to DG Cities, repowering the vehicle represents a lifetime cost saving of up to £300,000 compared to a Euro 5 or older diesel powered model.

The project is particularly significant because from next April, central London will become an Ultra Low Emissions Zone, where vehicles entering the area will need to meet emission standards of 80mg CO2 per kilometre face daily charge of £100 for most vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. From October 2020, the standards will apply across Greater London and local authority vehicles will not be exempt.

“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 Greenwich council leader Danny Thorpe. “I am particularly pleased that we are pioneering technology that will help address poor air quality. I am sure residents and pedestrians will also appreciate the quiet operation of the vehicles.  With this ground-breaking eRCV in operation, the loudest noise on the street on bin day in the future may be the refuse collectors whistling.”

Original Article in ‘The Engineer’