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The Tesla of Garbage Trucks Could Help Clean Up Urban Air The Tesla of Garbage Trucks Could Help Clean Up Urban Air

The Tesla of Garbage Trucks Could Help Clean Up Urban Air

by Peter Lehner

May 27, 2013

With help from a grant awarded by the California Energy Commission (CEC), which helps provide critical government support for promising clean technologies, as well as private capital, Wrightspeed was able to manufacture prototypes and test them on the Isuzu NPR, a popular model in the medium-duty truck fleet. Under testing conditions, the normal truck averaged about 12 miles per gallon. With the hybrid drivetrain, the truck earned about 44 miles per gallon. Wrightspeed calculated that on a diesel-powered garbage truck, emissions of smog-forming pollutants such as NOx and small particles would be reduced 85 to 95 percent—and that’s based on a conservative estimate of the truck’s baseline pollution levels. (Garbage trucks, as you can imagine, rarely cruise smoothly down city streets, and their emissions jump with every grinding stop and roaring start.)

The company won another CEC grant to help accelerate manufacturing of its hybrid drivetrain. The prototype is already in trials with potential customers, and the market potential is strong. Trucks last a long time, but drivetrains do not, and fleet owners are used to replacing their vehicle’s drivetrains every few years. A retrofit is a much easier sell than a new hybrid vehicle. Plus, because of the fuel savings, a retrofit pays for itself in just about five years. 

The trucks that Wrightspeed is targeting comprise about 20 percent of the U.S. truck fleet. If this retrofit is adopted widely—and with its attractive payback time, it just might—we’re looking at taking out a significant chunk of air pollution from our cities. 

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Images courtesy of Wrightspeed.
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The Tesla of Garbage Trucks Could Help Clean Up Urban Air