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Chicago commissions electric garbage trucks for quieter, greener waste disposal

It seems that many Chicago residents soon will no longer have to worry about being woken up by loud, idling diesel-powered garbage trucks on their streets in the early morning. The windy city has just awarded a $13.4 million contract to a San Francisco company known as Motiv Systems to build them electric garbage trucks. The company has developed a system called “electric Powertrain Control System” or “ePCS”, which can be installed on standard diesel truck chassis and scaled up or down to accommodate whatever role it’s needed for.

Earlier this year, the firm unveiled a pilot vehicle, a small 20-passenger bus which uses the ePCS. The bus used 5 battery packs and had an impressive 120-mile range from a single charge. Garbage trucks are obviously much heavier than busses, so the system being designed for these will use 10 battery packs and will have a range of about 60 miles. The chassis will be built by Detroit Chassis, and the body by Loadmaster. Neither of these will be vastly different from the diesel versions which both companies sell.

At 52,000lbs., these trucks will be the biggest pure EVs on American roads, and it will be interesting to see how the program works. The city of Chicago also looked into hybrid and CNG garbage trucks, but it was ultimately concluded that the electric trucks were the most cost-effective. The electric trucks are supposed to offer a 50 percent savings in total cost of ownership over an eight year period versus an equivalent diesel model, mostly in terms of fuel saved. But maintenance costs will also be lower, and the modular ePCS design makes it relatively easy to swap out any drivetrain parts that need replacing. The city actually does have one hybrid truck already, which will soon be joined by 20 EV trucks. Of course, this represents just a tiny fraction of the 600 garbage trucks that  Chicago uses, but the lucky residents along the routes of these 20 trucks are likely to appreciate the change.