Sponsored by:

Kelli McConahey, McNeilus Truck and Manufacturing

Few industries better reflect the rapidly changing and converging environmental, governmental, and regulatory factors driving electrification adoption than refuse collection. With electric refuse collection vehicles (eRCVs), which are still in the early stages of development and adoption, the next several years are poised to mark a significant evolution for the waste industry.

Reducing the effects of climate change, transitioning from fossil fuels, and reducing carbon emissions represent some of the environmental priorities electric vehicles address. In the refuse collection category, environmental benefits could be significant. A 2015 study conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that refuse collection vehicles, alone, generated approximately 251 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Transitioning to zero-emissions eRCVs is one solution to making a significant environmental impact. Electric refuse collection vehicles will also make an impact on noise pollution during early morning routes. Electric refuse collection vehicles are extremely quiet in comparison to traditional RCVs.

The environmental benefits of electrification have led to numerous federal and state programs to promote and incentivize the transition to zero-emission vehicles. Many state governments have established regulations mandating the transition from fossil fuel-powered vehicles to EVs across all categories from passenger to heavy duty fleet, including refuse collection. The percentage of electric refuse collection vehicles on the road will likely continue to grow because of these incentives, subsidies and regulations, among other factors.

For refuse collection companies, transitioning to EVs represents a major, multi-faceted undertaking that requires changes across all operations. The following checklist provides some guidance and things to consider with successfully integrating EVs into a refuse collection fleet.


Total Cost of Ownership
EVs deliver what companies across all markets continuously seek: new products that cost less over the life of the product yet deliver similar or greater value than existing ones.

According to an article in January 2023 from McKinsey & Company, “based on the total cost of ownership (TCO), battery electric vehicles (BEVs) will outperform their internal-combustion-engine (ICE) counterparts across all vehicle classes by as soon as 2025.” Extensive proprietary research conducted by McNeilus, in conjunction with third-party data, during the development of its eRCV indicated an anticipated TCO improvement of up to 14% over the average refuse collection vehicle.

Safety and Training
The safety of operators and service technicians, as well as EV storage, and charging facilities, are critically important. Similar to their ICE counterparts, all EVs must meet federal safety requirements. At the same time, owners and operators know less about electric power systems. That makes education and training even more important. Safety topics to address include the unique emergency response guidelines for EVs, the proper distance between stored EVs, specific high-voltage training requirements and special personal protection equipment, to name a few.
It’s also important to note that because there are many emerging safety regulations and requirements around EVs, it’s a good idea for haulers to check with their insurance companies to ensure they have the proper safety requirements in place.


Legislative and Regulatory Requirements
Government mandates are primarily driving the timing for transitioning to EVs. Fleet owners should understand the legislative and regulatory requirements in the states where they operate for transitioning to zero emission vehicles. For example, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently announced the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, which says refuse vehicles across the state of California must transition to zero emissions by 2040. CARB certifications provide written documentation of compliance with CARB regulations pertaining to greenhouse gas emissions and zero emissions for heavy duty powertrains. The CARB certifications also satisfy the zero-emissions vehicle reporting requirements necessary for compliance with the Advanced Clean Truck regulations now in effect in eight other states.

Incentives and Grants
States with legislative and regulatory zero-emissions mandates may provide incentives to fleet owners. For example, California offers a variety of purchase incentive programs such as the Hybrid and Zero Emissions Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP) for vehicles that are CARB-certified. CARB certification may also make vehicles eligible for purchase vouchers in other state incentive programs such as the New Jersey Zero-Emission Incentive Program. Other states offering incentives and vouchers to fleet owners for zero-emission vehicles include Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

There may also be incentives available to offset costs of EV charging systems. Charging infrastructure funding may be less prominent than for electric vehicles, but it is something worth looking into.

Infrastructure Planning
Another essential step early in the process of planning the transition to EVs includes identifying the right infrastructure partner and determining how many trucks you plan to add to your fleet over a specific timeframe. Then, you can work with your third-party infrastructure provider to build out the plan needed to support your fleet.

It’s also important to coordinate with your local electric utility provider to determine specific requirements and regulations, depending on number of EVs in your fleet and the charging infrastructure setup.


Service and Support
With all refuse collection vehicles in their fleets, including eRCVs, haulers know that keeping training, maintenance and access to parts and service top of mind is key to overall fleet performance. Additional considerations with EVs include additional high-voltage training required to service electric vehicles, and whether a hauler may need to train their in-house teams or can depend on an outside vendor for high-voltage service. Coverage and length of warranties and service plans also factor into eRCV ownership, specifically around batteries and other electric components. Ongoing upgrades with battery technology and software updates will also improve total cost of ownership and the life of electric vehicles over time.

Optimizing Operational Benefits
It’s also important to understand other variables that may influence the performance and capabilities of an eRCV. These variables can include types of routes and types waste to be collected, along with time and location to charge the eRCVs.

Although there are numerous considerations with transitioning to electric refuse collection vehicles, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Proper planning and consultation with insurance companies, electric utilities and manufacturers can assist fleet managers in developing a transition roadmap that allows them to take advantage of the many of benefits of eRCVs.


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