Los Angeles has committed to electrifying their entire garbage truck fleet, and they’re doing it with a pretty aggressive goal.
Los Angeles Board of Sanitation director Enrique Zaldivar made the announcement last week that not only will the city stop buying gas-powered garbage trucks in 2022, but they will have a fully electric fleet by 2035.
Los Angeles announced the move with the intent of moving the industry more toward electrification. The city, being the second-largest in the nation, is a huge player in the industry and will likely inspire more action from suppliers and other municipalities.
Several truck manufacturers have gotten into the electric garbage truck game in recent years. California’s first electric garbage truck was deployed in 2017 in Sacramento.
The duty cycle of garbage trucks, especially in large cities, is a perfect use case for electric drive. A Tesla cofounder, Ian Wright, has been advocating this for years.
Garbage trucks are large, so have plenty of space for batteries. They stop and start constantly, which means regenerative braking can help save tremendous amounts of energy. They are heavy, need a lot of torque, and stay at low speeds, where electric motors have a huge torque advantage. They drive consistent, predictable routes and return back to a central facility, making range and charging non-issues.
And they’re noisy and smelly and disgusting, and they bring all of those undesirable characteristics directly into residential areas right in front of people’s homes, so reducing noise and air pollution is crucial.
For all these reasons, this is the perfect application of electric drive (and other similar types of vehicles… looking at you, US Postal Service).
Los Angeles has also had difficulties with pollution for decades. Due to unique geographical factors and the fact that the city was built with the car in mind rather than with walking and trains, LA has some of the worst air quality in the country.
But it’s a lot better than it used to be. Longtime residents will remember a time in the ’60s and ’70s when you couldn’t even see the mountains from downtown LA because the smog was so thick. Since then, with the adoption of strict regulations and the success of California’s Clean Air Act, concentrations of certain vehicle-related pollutants have dropped by 98% in the LA basin.
So Los Angeles is no stranger to poor air quality, but also no stranger to taking aggressive and effective actions to clean it up.
Los Angeles has also set a goal to have 100% renewable electricity by 2045, which means that these garbage trucks will be fully zero emission from well to wheel. Even prior to that, due to California’s high renewable mix and the inherent efficiencies of electric drive, LA’s garbage sector will contribute much less to pollution and global warming.
On top of the environmental benefits (which are also cost benefits, in terms of health costs for residents), this is likely to result in significant savings for Angelenos. Just today we reported that UPS has ordered 10,000 electric delivery trucks, citing that this would reduce operating costs by more than half.
Given that delivery vehicles and garbage trucks have somewhat similar duty cycles, we could expect similar savings in waste management as companies expect to see in deliveries.
Businesses are onboard as well. The Engine Manufacturer’s Association believes that it is reasonable to expect that all garbage truck procurement in California could switch to electric by 2026.
This is great news, and a serious effort by Los Angeles Sanitation to move quickly, and to move more quickly than the city as a whole as well. With LA Sanitation’s target of 2035, they’re going to shift their whole fleet to sustainability a full 10 years earlier than the rest of the city, which has a goal of going 100% renewable by 2045.
Better yet, refusing to buy any ICE trucks, and going electric only, starting just two years from now, is the kind of commitment we need — but from everyone.
Any fossil-powered engine bought today will be on the road for another 10-20 years, spewing pollution, making the world less healthy, and bringing us closer to the impending climate catastrophe we’ve brought upon ourselves. We need to stop buying these things now. Not in a few years, but right now.
So… two years is “in a few years,” but that’s still a relatively short timeline from a big buyer, and it’s an earlier timeline than we’ve heard anyone else set.
Nevertheless, even this may not be quick enough. The world really ought to be targeting carbon negative by 2030, and running diesel garbage trucks in 2034 isn’t going to get us there. Especially if the electric ones are still fueled by non-renewable sources (looking at you and your weak 2045 commitment, Los Angeles).
So the sooner the better. If this is going to save Angelenos money, and make their lives better, why not bump that number forward even further? Maybe we could even go a little bit earlier than 2035. I know I wouldn’t mind a little more peace and quiet every Tuesday, instead of the clanging, rumbling nonsense that belches by every week. Let’s get to work on that.
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