DSNY electric trucks crumble too quickly during snow removal, says Commish

They can’t do it here—and maybe they can’t do it anywhere.

Electric garbage trucks that the Department of Sanitation has been testing for two years are no match for clearing snow from the streets of the Big Apple, according to the agency’s commissioner.

The battery-powered trucks New York’s Strongest have been testing since 2020 lasted just a few hours on a full charge to clear snow, a fraction of the 12 to 24 hours the city needs haulers on the road – marking a major hurdle in the city’s goal to fully electrify the municipal vehicle fleet by 2040.

They can’t be electric yet.

“In our testing of the non-diesel rear loaders we found they couldn’t clear snow effectively, they broke down after four hours – we need them to go 12 hours,” said DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch to City Council at a hearing on Wednesday.

“Given the current state of technology, I don’t see a way forward today to fully electrify the rear-loading portion of the fleet by 2040,” she added. “Now things could change, technology could develop and progress, but I don’t want to sit here and tell you that I see it in my crystal ball today.”

Rear-loading garbage collectors make up the largest share of DSNY’s 6,000 vehicles, or more than 2,100 in the fleet.

In 2020, the agency began testing electric models for its collection trucks and street sweepers, and has ordered seven of each that are expected to arrive in the spring. DSNY will station two in Brooklyn and Queens, and one in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.

Mack, the truck company, delivered the battery-powered collection vehicle, dubbed the Mack LR Electric, to DSNY’s garage on Varick Avenue in East Williamsburg in 2020, months after then-Mayor Bill de Blasio , signed an executive order stating the city’s goal of making the city’s fleet fully electric and carbon neutral by 2040.

DSNY’s fleet also has 602 dual-bin trucks for collecting recyclables, 450 street sweepers, and more than 1,000 light-duty vehicles like passenger cars, SUVs, vans, and pickup trucks.

New York differs from many cities in that its garbage trucks also serve as snow removal vehicles.

The electric trucks were specifically built for garbage collection, according to a Mack spokesperson, and they managed to complete a day of garbage collection. But even their next generation of batteries will increase snow removal life to around five and a half hours per charge.

“The unit, which completed testing in May, met expectations by completing a full day’s work of waste collection. Based on this successful test, as previously announced, DSNY has ordered seven LR Electric trucks for deployment,” Jonathan Randall, vice president of Mack, said in a statement. “However, Commissioner Tisch is correct: based on current technology and the payload required by DSNY, there is no current electric option available to meet a 12-hour plow duty cycle on single charge.”

Tisch was more optimistic about DSNY’s sweepers, which have tested battery-powered vehicles well, and the agency’s lightweight stable, which includes 289 plug-in, hybrid or fully battery-powered vehicles.

“We did very well on the mechanical brooms, the tests went very well,” she said. “Hopefully we can move forward on the charging front to make a lot of progress in switching our sweepers to non-fossil fuels.”

The project will also require more charging infrastructure, especially for heavy vehicles.

DSNY currently has 13 DC EV fast charging stations at eight of its facilities, which can charge a passenger car 30 to 90 miles in 10 minutes, but adding additional infrastructure could incur high costs. .

“We are working to expand this network, however, this charging infrastructure requires additional space and often new electrical connections which may require substantial capital investment,” Tisch said.

Board member Sandy Nurse (D-Bushwick), who chairs the Sanitation Committee, praised DSNY for investing in new technology where it worked, particularly with its small vehicles, but acknowledged that the challenges posed by larger plows will be difficult to overcome.

“It’s great that the city has made this investment with what’s available now to try,” Nurse told Streetsblog. “Let’s do this as low-hanging fruit and really effectively plan for bigger changes with heavy duty vehicles that just don’t have the current technology to allow us to transition easily.”

The agency is also catching up on purchasing new fossil fuel vehicles, after the city curbed new equipment purchases during the pandemic, and as it scrambles to find a new contractor here. January.

DSNY’s collection trucks have a useful life of eight years, and the agency ideally wants the average age of its fleet to be four years, but that rate has shot up to six years due to the backlog, officials told the council.

“There is enormous — enormous — wear and tear on these vehicles. Some of the vehicles can be out, like on a snow day, like 24 hours a day,” Tisch said. “On a normal collection day, they could be used on two different shifts, so they are used all the time.”

Other cities in the United States and abroad have started experimenting with electric garbage trucks in recent years to reduce emissions from their fleets. In Los Angeles officials also noted the challenges of building enough charging infrastructure to support a full city fleet.

Deployments have also begun in European municipalities like Copenhagen, where officials in the city of 1.37 million people earlier this year ordered 10 times as many electric collection trucks as DSNY and aim to be the first neutral city. in carbon in the world by 2025.

Battery life is a recurring issue for governments looking to go all-electric, such as with the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

MTA transit executives previously told Streetsblog that electric buses operate on some of its routes, but currently cannot recharge with enough energy to last on some of the sprawling network’s longest routes.

The city of Albuquerque in 2018 had to unplug its electric bus driver in part due to poor battery life in the hilly New Mexico city and Neil Young’s talisman.

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