One of the UK’s largest waste management businesses, Biffa, has signed an agreement with EV conversion business Lunaz to convert at least 10 of it 26-tonne rubbish trucks to electric as part of commitment to slash emissions by a further 50 per cent by 203o.
The converted trucks will run on both municipal and commercial routes with deliveries of the electrified rubbish trucks to begin later this year, and Biffa – which has already cut emissions by 70 per cent since 2002, says it will cease buying fossil-fuelled trucks as soon as practicable.
It’s a significant move given that trucks have long working lives, and attempts to limit the world to a 1.5°C climate outcome will rely heavily on heavy vehicle conversion solutions to cut emissions in the transport sector.
An interesting part of the deal is that Biffa have taken the conversion route rather than buying new. The reasons they say are threefold.
Economically, it has been calculated that converting rubbish trucks saves more than £1 million (Au$1.9 million) for every 20 vehicles refurbished and electrified versus buying new EV equivalents.
Environmentally, Lunaz has commissioned work that calculated there is a saving of 82% of the embedded carbon of a new truck by remanufacturing an existing one – resulting in a saving of 21 tonnes of carbon per conversion. It would also reduce the need to scrap perfectly serviceable vehicles before they needed to be in order to meet a business’s climate goals.
A third benefit is the creation of local jobs in a new green-economy business, with Lunaz suggesting this contract will in the longer term support more than 300 local manufacturing jobs.
Another benefit of the conversion process touted by Lunaz is the ability to individually tailor each conversion solution – including the size of the powertrain to specific route profiles. This means for shorter, more urban routes, the customer is not burdened with the extra cost and weight of an over specified battery-pack.
Improvements to the trucks by Lunaz include a new dash layout, the use of 360 degree cameras with person and cyclist detection and the re-location of the handbrake to ensure drivers never need to take their hands off the steering wheel.
Given the long life of trucks is an impediment to turning over that part of the transport fleet to zero carbon emissions in time to limit the world to a 1.5 degree increase in global warming, conversion solutions such as these will need to make up an important part of the race for this sector to meet its part of the deal.
In that light, where such EV conversions are both economic and provide viable replacements it would seem that developing such industries should be encouraged and supported.
Unfortunately, it seems Australia still has a way to go in taking the bull by the horns to build a smooth, fast and profitable EV transition that supports local jobs and industry.
Australia’s recently released National Electric Vehicle Strategy is full of feel-good statements, but is lacking in substantive policy on truck electrification, building such manufacturing opportunities as these … or in fact any real overall coordination of the EV transition.
In comparison, UK EV policies include generous subsidies and schemes are available for the purchase of electric trucks (up to £25,000/Au$47,500 in some cases) as well as having an Office for Zero-Emission Vehicles (OZEV) dedicated to the implementation of grants and schemes associated with the EV transition.
(The OZEV also promotes research programs, consulting services, encourages manufacturing opportunities and more).
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.