Chicago Buys Fleet of Electric Garbage Trucks

Those trucks that pick up your garbage are among the dirtiest, noisiest vehicles, belching emissions and getting maybe 3 miles a gallon, but that’s starting to change in Chicago.

Chicago is the first city to sign a contract to buy electric garbage trucks – residents will no longer hear their garbage (and hopefully recyclables too) being picked up because the trucks are so quiet. The city was recently lauded for its sustainable urban design.

Chicago signed a 5-year, $13.4 million contract with Motiv Power Systems, a start-up based in the San Francisco area, to buy 20 electric garbage trucks (it has a fleet of 600).

Motiv’s technology is the first in the trucking market to use off-the-shelf batteries and motors that can be mixed and matched to fit the exact size of the electric truck needed. 

That design approach cuts operating costs 50% over eight years, Motiv says, pointing to its medium-duty truck, which costs $0.10 a mile to run.

Chicago’s garbage trucks will have 10 battery packs and an electric motor that drives the hydraulics system. They weigh 52,000 lbs and have a range of more than 60 miles.

Founded in 2009, Motiv has been validating its electric powertrain using an electric bus under a grant from the California Energy Commission. The 20-passenger bus has a range of more than 120 miles using five battery packs.

"Scaling up from the medium-duty pilot bus to the Class 8 garbage truck is really just a matter of switching out components and re-packaging it onto the new chassis," says Jim Castelaz, CEO of Motiv. "We’ve designed the whole system to be compatible with any off-the-shelf motors and batteries, which are brought to a uniform operating standard by our software. If Chicago ever wants newer batteries, the old ones can be easily swapped out."

Motiv’s powertrain is assembled on conventional chassis infrastructure. Detroit Chassis will install the powertrain on a  standard garbage truck chassis in a standard truck body provided by Loadmaster.

Smith Electric Vehicles is the biggest maker of commercial electric vehicles, including an electric school bus and electric trucks serving Frito-Lay and Duane Reade retail stores.

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Comments on “Chicago Buys Fleet of Electric Garbage Trucks”

  1. Peter

    What’s completely unresolved is where the electricity will be coming from when everyone is switching to EVs. Alt energy is less than 1%, so if too many people go electric to soon, there is no choice than firing up the old coal power plants!! What a disaster! Wouldn’t it be better to use smaller gas motors instead with less fuel consumption, like Europe does?

  2. Rona Fried

    Peter, renewable energy now provides 6-7% of US electricity now, and Chicago’s two biggest coal plants are closing. Search our news for these stories. It’s easy to power electric vehicles using small solar panels, which is what we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

  3. Jmogs

    Two things:

    Nuclear supplies a massive portion of Chicago’s energy mix. (The Fisk and Crawford coal plants in the City have both closed and were merchant plants that did not power the City, but instead sold electricity into east coast states on the grid).

    EVs, even if powered by electricity completely generated from coal, have a smaller carbon footprint than gas-powered vehicles (and the number of places with that mix is shrinking rapidly):

  4. FG

    The money from electricity will come from removing the tax rebate for buildings of more than four units which pay the city tax for trash removal but don’t get the service. There has been a rebate, however, that is being phased out.

    That said, if the new trucks are quieter, it’ll be to everyone’s advantage.

  5. Paul Scott

    As Jmogs said, powering an EV on coal-generated electricity is cleaner than using diesel. But even if it was the same pollution, wouldn’t you want to pollution to be generated further from your home AND have a quiet truck?

  6. Dinoman

    Peter, electric vehicles use less electricity than the electricity used at refineries to produce gas to go the same distance.

  7. Achu

    My Grandad lived on a farm when they didn’t have electricity. They had what they claeld a wind charger and the wind did blow but the lead acid batteries required constant maintenance .I also have experience on solar panels in the Ecuadorian jungle. It was decided we needed a microwave and mobile repeater on top of one of the mountains and it would be some time before we could get a road up there . Well it is cloudy and we calculated our solar panels at 20% sunlight. That part was good but after about a year of good operation a small tornado tore all the solar panels off and throed them off the top of the mountain. It takes a lot of panels to generate enough power for low wattage repeaters. To be of any value to a car u would need to pull a trailer the size of a 18 wheeler,and they would need to be tied down good. Then there is the weight of the heavy batteries,it takes something to move that.


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