Revving up for low carbon collections

A feat of hybrid engineering has resulted in one of the most environmentally friendly refuse trucks in Britain hitting the streets of London for the first time

A diesel-electric hybrid refuse truck has hit the streets in London as part of a two-year trial by Westminster City Council and its contractor Veolia. The vehicle has the potential to deliver huge fuel and cost savings, and will drive a major reduction in carbon emissions.

The vehicle comprises a diesel-electric hybrid, built by Volvo Trucks, and a fully electric body, built by Geesink Norba. Fittingly, the number plate of the vehicle is LCO2 LOW.

A similar vehicle already operating in Sweden has shown savings of 30% on fuel and carbon emissions compared with standard diesel-powered vehicles. The trial, taking place in Westminster, will identify what savings can be made in frontline operations in a densely populated, urban environment. The truck is driven by parallel hybrid technology, meaning it has two separate energy sources - one a diesel engine and the other an electric motor - which can be used either separately or together. Each energy source can be used where it is most efficient - the electric motor at low revs and the diesel engine at high revs. It also means that it is quieter to drive than a conventional diesel vehicle.

When starting off from rest, only the electric motor is working. At higher speeds the diesel engine is activated and the two work together. At normal road speeds, the diesel engine provides power like a traditional truck. At low speeds it behaves more like an electric vehicle. During braking, the electric motor works as an engine brake, reducing brake wear and recovering braking energy.

The bin lifts and the crushing and compaction mechanisms, which handle the refuse in the body of the vehicle, and the tipping mechanisms for removing the refuse are all electrically powered from a battery mounted behind the cab. The engine plays no part in loading and can even be switched off instead of being revved-up, creating savings in fuel and carbon emissions. It also results in further reduction of noise levels.

Normally the battery will contain enough electricity to comfortably power the crushing and compaction mechanisms throughout the most demanding of rounds. Should it ever need it, the battery can easily be recharged by power take-off through the hybrid engine. At the end of the round it can also be recharged by plugging it into a mains power supply.

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