News

Palo Alto goes electric with refuse truck

Officials tout addition to GreenWaste fleet as first electric garbage truck in North America

The familiar rumble of a garbage truck rolling down the block may soon fade out of certain Palo Alto neighborhoods, as the city prepares to send its new all-electric truck on its first route.

The new truck, custom-made for Palo Alto by the Lancaster-based company BYD (which stands for "Build Your Dreams"), is just one refuse vehicle in a fleet of about 30. But if the experiment proves successful, it could be the sign of things to come for a city where the City Council has been doubling down on electric vehicles in recent years as part of a broad plan to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2030.

GreenWaste of Palo Alto, which serves as city's vendor for refuse collection and owns all the trucks, planned to start experimenting with the BYD vehicle last week, said Chris Siebenthall, the company's operations manager. The idea is to start with recycling bins but ultimately test the truck on black and green bins that hold garbage and compost, respectively.

"We're going to try all three commodities," Siebenthall said. "We'll spend a week on one, try different drivers and get their feedback."

The goal is to ultimately have the truck handle all three streams in a route, said Phil Bobel, assistant director of Public Works.

City officials believe the new electric refuse truck is the first such vehicle in North America. As such, GreenWaste plans to slowly roll out the truck and experiment with the vehicle before making any major expansions in the fleet. According to BYD, it takes about two-and-a-half hours to fully charge the vehicle, which can travel between 65 and 70 miles on that charge.

One big question that has yet to be answered is whether it will be able to maintain this performance while carrying the garbage load from a Palo Alto neighborhood. Bobel said one of the reasons why this is a pilot project is because the city has yet to see how the truck performs with all the stopping, starting, compacting and loading that running a refuse truck entails.

"When you add all the things together, it's hard to predict," Bobel said.

While the new electric truck is significantly more expensive than the conventional diesel-powered variety (just over $400,000 for the former, compared to a little under $300,000 for the latter, according to Bobel), officials are excited about the possibilities. On Nov. 13, members of the City Council mingled with Public Works staff, and officials from BYD and GreenWaste during a celebration of the new vehicle.

Mayor Greg Scharff called the addition of an electric truck to the garbage fleet "amazing" and touted its environmental benefits. The truck is expected to save the city about 6,000 gallons of diesel per year and cut carbon dioxide equivalents by 72 metric tons annually.

"I'm hoping to get all-electric trucks everywhere because I'm always behind (garbage trucks) when the diesel comes out," Scharff said.

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Comments

27 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2017 at 9:25 am

To fully inform your readers, and not simply echo the city’s propaganda, the article should have pointed out that BYD is a chinese company. The article says that the pilot vehicle is just over 400,000 and the traditional vehicle is just under 300,000.
So, just how much over and how much under - 10,000 over and 10,000 under would be 20,000 plus 100,000. If we’re estimating replacing the fleet that’s at least 3 million. Saving 6000 gallons of deisel per year is about 15,000 - spending maybe 100,000 to 120,000 to save 15,000? Then there is downtime to recharge - 65 miles between charges is probably a lot less with stop and go at each house so is there an issue that these trucks are down in mid-route in order to recharge? Also, what is the real cost to PA or is BYD selling a loss leader at a discount so that PA - so much at a rush to be the first to show off electric garbage trucks - commits to converting. Also, the city is buying the trucks for the vendor, we don’t even own the vehicles? Wouldn’t it be a lot better to wait until the trucking industry rolls out electric? Making trash collection more expensive for its businesses and citizens should be up to the voters to approve.


18 people like this
Posted by HUGE truck
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2017 at 9:42 am

Advantages of new vehicles:

Mayor Scharff gets a photo op. Good for his future plans.
Mayor gets to say "amazing."
City gets to spend BIG bucks for show, instead of dealing with our real problems.

The truck is HUGE.
Made in China. So much for "green."


9 people like this
Posted by Martha
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2017 at 9:49 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


17 people like this
Posted by HUGE truck
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2017 at 10:44 am

Not to mention the takeover of the real estate market.
Millions in cash pushing out the middle class and of course, the poor.
Do you read the real estate sales lists in the newspapers in recent years?


19 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 21, 2017 at 11:32 am

mauricio is a registered user.

I have noticed that Martha didn't say one word about her president who manufactures all the junk he is selling in the USA in several countries, China among them, which conveniently provide cheap labor, but neither environmental protection nor remotely acceptable labor conditions.


2 people like this
Posted by Marjorie
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 21, 2017 at 11:36 am

I think mayor Scharff looks boyishly cute in that photo.


4 people like this
Posted by Larissa
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Nov 21, 2017 at 12:39 pm

I think mayor Scharff looks like a cute brown penguin.


4 people like this
Posted by Jeremy Robinson
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 21, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Marjorie, you are right. Mayor Scharff is very cute!

As soon as I read this article I knew some old grumpy pants would be the first up with a negative response. And there it was!
God bless free speech!


13 people like this
Posted by ModelG
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Nov 21, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Why do we waste our time and $ being the guinea pig for one of the largest manufacturing conglomerates in China? Perhaps the folks spending OUR money (not theirs) need to buy their own EVs rather than experimenting with our $$$.


9 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2017 at 1:39 pm

So after the neighborhood pickup and hauling the recycle or trash down to San Jose, the vehicle will need to get recharged before heading back to Palo Alto. And then the driver gets paid for waiting for 2.5 hours. Yep real logical thinking.

Sounds to me the city is preparing another rate increase, so that they can fund another pet project.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2017 at 2:15 pm

A lot of folks who get exercised about aircraft flying overhead should be very happy about this pilot program. By my measurements, garbage/recycling trucks are the loudest contrivances that I'm exposed to in my neighborhood. They can be extremely loud, pollute heavily, and, electric replacements can't come soon enough as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know about the company that makes this particular model, but, for reference, there is a company based in Burlingame, Proterra, that manufactures electric buses.


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Wang Chuanfu is the CEO of this company.
He should concentrate on marketing these vehicles to his own government and country.
How ironic that a Chinese garbage truck will be picking up residential trash, when so many of our homes and land is now owned by Chinese nationals!
IT would be great if they went a step further, and put it on a barge out in the bay and hauled it all the way back to China on a battery operated barge.
Add their deconstruction waste to this too, PLEASE.


15 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2017 at 2:33 pm

It's a shame that this article did not ask a few more questions of the Utility, such as:

1) How many miles a day does the average refuse truck travel?
2) How many miles a day does the average refuse truck travel when handling a single refuse stream?
3) Can the truck fabricator increase the size of the batteries?
4) How long will a battery last?
5) What is the cost of each battery?
6) How long will it take to swap out a battery?
7) Who will perform maintenance on these trucks?
8) Since the Utility is touting the savings in CO2 from not burning diesel, what is the cost of generating the electricity in terms of CO2?
9) What is the cost of the electrical charging stations for these vehicles?

The rosy view of this vehicle needs a little cost-benefit analysis to better understand its total cost.


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm

"...the vehicle will need to get recharged before heading back to Palo Alto."

To get full use out of this thing, they ought to tow an industrial-grade diesel generator cart behind it to keep it charged as it runs. They'll need one handy anyway, in case it runs down somewhere on its route.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2017 at 2:41 pm

But you guys!!! Climate change!!! We are a world leader in reducing carbon footprints!
It's all about green living! 100 percent green! Zero waste!!! Clean air vehicle! All cause CLIMATE CHANGE WE HAVE TO DO IT.

I MEAN WE HAVE TO! And we should also give Archdruid Jerry Brown a lifetime term and secede from the USA. The Pagan Republic of California with Palo Alto as the LEADER in the fight against climate chaaaange!!!


5 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Resident For President!
Best yet, Palo Alto, generally a bit short of pocket for the basic services might need to float a bond issue to pay for the vendors fleet of electric trucks made in China, that is, borrow the money from China to buy Chinese trucks. So, its $400,000 per truck (plus some yet undisclosed amount) plus cost of borrowing the money. Then there is the as yet untold social impact of loss of American enterprise and the inevitable replacement of American workers and managers in these garbage truck factories to Chinese workers imported under H1 visas. Future, here we come.

Step two will be funding more Green power to generate the electricity (which is not included in the costs described because ‘What costs? We’ll just plug them in the walls’ and get the rate payers to pay for the electricity.


2 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Novelera is a registered user.

@Jeremy Robinson. Great minds think alike. I also knew the curmudgeons would be all over this story. And, as a bonus, we got the xenophobes as well!


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm

Resident: Seems to me it was pretty warm last summer. Here is some data:

Web Link

I don't know enough about this particular truck model to endorse it, but, garbage trucks are a great candidate for electric or hybrid solutions, because they speed up and slow down constantly-- even better than buses, which are also a good candidate. Presumably, a hybrid would be inappropriate for a vehicle which drives at 55 for hours down rural roads. Garbage trucks that average a few miles per hour while collecting, and get only a few miles per gallon, are a perfect fit for various hybrid and electric drive solutions that recover a lot of energy via regenerative braking. Now that better batteries are available, garbage trucks, buses, delivery trucks, are all good candidates for alternative drive solutions.


5 people like this
Posted by Malcolm
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2017 at 4:45 pm

Malcolm is a registered user.

As somebody who lives at the start of the route, I can do without the loud rumble of the diesel garbage trucks at 6AM. Hurray. Go for it.


8 people like this
Posted by Brit
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Electric vehicles are not new. Electric milk delivery vehicles delivered milk to nearly everyone in the UK back in the 50s, 60s and 70s. They were known as milk floats. Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 21, 2017 at 7:28 pm

Bravo -- somebody has to take the lead. I never wanted to buy a Japanese car, but they built the Prius. It took American car companies FOREVER to start building hybrids and now electrics. If there was an American electric garbage truck, of course we'd buy it.


11 people like this
Posted by HUGE truck
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 23, 2017 at 11:39 am

This is Show Biz.
The City Manager's PR staff need to produce publicity

It's not xenophobia to acknowledge what is plain as day.
The real estate market has gone berserk with Asian cash, even buying houses that stand empty. There is even a name for them, Ghost houses.

Received a very expensive sales magazine from DeLeon Realty yesterday. They specialize in these sales.


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2017 at 7:58 am

There are lots of models of electric garbage trucks for sale on Alibaba.
With a sweet smile like Ivanka's, I bet the PRC would be willing to offer free shipping to the port of Oakland for the City of Palo Alto. The PRC offsets most of the shipping for the Chinese junk (destined for our landfills) sold on eBay, so American sellers can not compete with 99 cents free shipping from China.
Just sayin'...


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 24, 2017 at 7:59 am

Forgot that link for all the electric Chinese garbage trucks on Alibaba. Sorry
Web Link


6 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 24, 2017 at 1:00 pm

"The PRC offsets most of the shipping for the Chinese junk (destined for our landfills) sold on eBay, so American sellers can not compete with 99 cents free shipping from China.
Just sayin'..."could be made in tge USA,

The PRC can well afford to do that, using the interest payments it gets from Uncle Sam for all the the money it loans the US to cover its national debt. Congressional Republicans are hopfoot eager to borrow another $1,500,000,000,000 (guess who from) to enrich their elites, so expect more money to flow to the PRC for more free shipping of things that could be made in the USA, but which Ivanka and Pater Donald would rather make in the PRC. Now THERE's some Chinese Junk for ya.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2017 at 10:07 am

Are you resident curmudgeons OK with U.S. electrics, or, do you just really like to burn fossil fuels and enjoy inhaling diesel particulates? Here is an article about -Tesla- and its plans for a new electric truck:

Web Link

Many more articles about it in the news this last week.


Plenty to complain about, I'm sure. Too bad it doesn't burn coal, eh?


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm

"Here is an article about -Tesla- and its plans for a new electric truck: Web Link"

Nice posh cab with a boss video layout, but there's usually more to a truck than an air suspension Naugahyde easy chair. Like, will it haul a commercially useful load over a practical distance, and how long to refuel?

You do know that its batteries need to get charged with electricity before it can go, and that that electricity doesn't just happen inside the walls of your house by the plugs? Some of it comes from coal-fired generator plants. Remarkably, EVs are the ONLY contemporaneous transportation mode that utilizes coal.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2017 at 9:12 am

"Like, will it haul a commercially useful load over a practical distance, and how long to refuel?"

Answered online in some of the articles. I'm not a Tesla salesman. Some of the metrics are better than diesel.

"You do know that its batteries need to get charged with electricity before it can go, and that that electricity doesn't just happen inside the walls of your house by the plugs? Some of it comes from coal-fired generator plants. Remarkably, EVs are the ONLY contemporaneous transportation mode that utilizes coal. "

Coal has been declining for years in California and is now < 5% of total electrical energy generated.


3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2017 at 12:42 pm

"Coal has been declining for years in California and is now < 5% of total electrical energy generated."from

Less than 0.2% in 2016. But California imports significant power from coal-happy Arizona, bringing the coal fraction to 4% Web Link, which helps power our new garbage truck.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 26, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Curmudgeon, are you arguing that the electric garbage truck is more CO2-intensive than the diesel truck? No? Then what are you arguing?

For those interested, here is a nice little table comparing carbon intensity of different fossil fuel energy sources:

Web Link

Here is a table showing California's electrical generation mix:

Web Link

A couple of notes of interest: of the known mix, more comes from geothermal than from coal, but, a fairly large fraction, 14%, is unknown, presumably because of interstate purchase on the spot market. Probably, a substantial fraction of that is coal. FWIW. Getting back to the electric garbage truck: if it turns out to have similar operating characteristics to the Tesla (semi-), then it will save a lot in operating costs per mile-- presumably because of the efficiency and regenerative braking. Seems like a reasonable goal to me: less diesel pollution, quieter, and cheaper to operate. What's not to like?


2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 26, 2017 at 4:20 pm

"Curmudgeon, are you arguing that the electric garbage truck is more CO2-intensive than the diesel truck? No? Then what are you arguing?"

From my post of Nov 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm, third one up: 'Remarkably, EVs are the ONLY contemporaneous transportation mode that utilizes coal.' That responded to your challenge of Nov 25, 2017 at 10:07 am: "Too bad it doesn't burn coal, eh?"

Well, that truck burns coal. It burns its coal elsewhere, but it burns coal. Diesels don't burn any coal. QED.


"What's not to like?"

Persisting fumes from diesel generators brought up to recharge the thing when its battery goes flat on its route. You heard it first here...


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