New electric refuse collection vehicle goes on trial in Oxford

ODS Oxford

The first purpose built, fully integrated electric refuse collection vehicle built by an original equipment manufacturer in the UK is undergoing trials in Oxford this week.

ODS, which manages all the waste collection for Oxford City Council and many local businesses, is leading the trial of the vehicle, and will be assessing how it performs while collecting waste from household and business premises across the city.

The vehicle is being provided by Dennis Eagle Ltd, makers of precision-made vehicles at its specialist refuse vehicle manufacturing plant in Warwick. Oxford will be taking its first delivery of an electric heavy goods vehicle in January but is undertaking  testing this month.

Maria Warner, Waste and Recycling Services Manager at ODS, said: “This is a very significant investment for us and a major step forward for Oxford. ODS has 27 RCVs to cover all the homes and businesses in Oxford. When each of these is electric that will be almost 750 tonnes less CO2 pumped out by Oxford per year or the weight of one average car every day. Carbon dioxide is a green house gas, so clearly it’s important we end this as soon as possible, but diesel engines also produce nitrogen oxide which is harmful to human health. That’s why we want to start doing the right thing now.”

Oxford has an especially dense household collection round, which will place particular demands on the vehicle battery as vehicles have to stop and start often and lift bins to empty them into the vehicle. This is followed by a relatively long drive to the recycling centre to process the waste. By contrast, the business centres which ODS looks after, such as Oxford Brookes University, require individual collections of waste which are much heavier but call for less frequent lifts.

Michele Morley from Oxford Brookes said “We’re delighted to be one of the first organisations on the collection and testing route for the new electric refuse collection vehicles, which is perfectly in line with Brookes’ goal to be a sector leader in energy efficient, low-carbon operations and behavioural practices.”

The new vehicle will have a quieter engine and lifting machinery than existing diesel trucks, and no exhaust emissions at all.  Dennis Eagle’s Sales and Marketing Director Richard Taylor said: “The eCollect is designed to operate in busy urban environments. We’re confident this highly efficient and cost-effective vehicle will meet Oxford’s operational needs as well as its vision for a cleaner, greener future.”

Maria explained that a key reason for testing the impact of different collection rounds on the vehicle battery is to ensure that charging requirements fit in with staff working patterns: “On our domestic collection rounds, the teams work a different shift pattern, so we need to know the charging requirements of the vehicles to be able to plan around the workforce and customer needs.”

ODS, which is wholly owned by Oxford City Council, is aiming to electrify 25 per cent of its fleet of 339 vehicles by 2023 and says it is already well ahead of other companies in its facilities for electric vehicles and people who use them.

For example, it is the only licenced LEVC electric taxi service provider in the region from Bristol, south Birmingham and West London. One of its electricians, James Barrett, played a key role in developing OxPops, the world’s first ‘pop-up’ electric charging points that ODS fitted for the Council, as part of a trial on Oxford’s residential streets.

At the start of July, 32 fast 22kW chargers for electric vehicles were installed at ODS’s depot in Marsh Road, plus Oxford’s first 50kW rapid electric charger, and this is what will be used to charge the new eRCV. It was installed as part of the Energy Superhub Oxford (ESO) project, led by Oxford City Council and Pivot Power (an EDF Renewables UK company).

Councillor Nigel Chapman, Cabinet Member for Customer Focused Services, said: “This is a great example of a practical approach to tackling emissions and making sure it works for everyone in Oxford.  These highly efficient vehicles are designed to be at least as cost-effective as their diesel counterparts over the course of their lifetime so we need to make sure every aspect of working with them is well planned before taking delivery of the first one. It’s good to see our front-line staff working with the very latest technology, which I know is eagerly awaited.”