The humble trash truck is ready for an all-electric upgrade

Trash Truck
(Binh Nguyen/Canary Media; Portland General Electric)

By Maria Gallucci

A powerful new electric vehicle recently started roaming the leaf-strewn streets of Portland, Oregon. Between its tires sits a hefty 400-kilowatt-hour battery pack. Inside its body is the daily detritus discarded by residents of downtown Portland.

The battery-powered garbage truck is the first of its kind in the state. COR Disposal and Recycling, which owns and operates the vehicle, debuted the truck in early November at a ceremony with the utility Portland General Electric. The zero-emissions model will collect trash in East Portland, an area that’s disproportionately affected by toxic diesel exhaust from garbage trucks, big rigs and other heavy-duty vehicles operating nearby.

We’re doing our due diligence to make sure that we’re not contaminating the environment anymore,” Alando Simpson, CEO of COR Disposal and Recycling, told Oregon Public Broadcasting earlier this month. He noted that the company primarily works within communities that ​aren’t getting the resources and investment to decarbonize for the future.”

Although the 66,000-pound trash hauler is unique in Oregon, it’s not the only electric garbage truck to navigate neighborhoods nationwide. Battery-powered models are steadily gaining traction in cities and towns as leaders work to curb greenhouse gas emissions and slash tailpipe pollution from their municipal refuse fleets, which spend many hours driving and idling outside people’s homes to perform a vital service.

As of late June, 48 zero-emissions refuse trucks had been deployed in the United States, according to data provided by Calstart, a clean transportation group. While that represents only a tiny fraction of the country’s tens of thousands of garbage trucks, it’s still more than double the number of battery-powered models deployed at the end of 2022.

Electrifying refuse trucks is a no-brainer,” said Ray Minjares, the heavy-duty vehicles program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit think tank.

It makes sense from an environmental and public health perspective, and we don’t hear them rumbling down the street as much,” he told Canary Media. ​And it’s good for the bottom line.”

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