A quiet, clean way to waste collection

Electric trash trucks in high demand

Bluepower Trash truck

Trash trucks are a bit of a standout among specialized vehicles, since they require energy for both powertrains and hydraulic systems. Fuel cells have long been known to be a very good fit for these trucks, allowing efficient, low-noise operation in residential areas. In 2011, Faun Umwelttechnik delivered a trash truck outfitted with a fuel cell-powered loader to Berlin‘s waste management company BSR (see HZwei, October 2011). This August, the company announced that after putting a second prototype to the test, it was now ready to bring the vehicle to market.

Faun is not a conventional automaker but an owner-managed midsize business making a variety of truck bodies. To ensure quiet, electric vehicle operation, the firm installs a storage tank, fuel cells, an electric motor, a battery and control equipment onto a Mercedes-Benz chassis. The company’s head of development, Georg Sandkühler, explained to the Weser-Kurier newspaper that “if you first need to remove the internal combustion engine, the transmission as well as some other components from the truck, a retrofit is essentially a waste of time.”

Faun’s system package includes up to three 30-kilowatt fuel cell modules. While their output seems a bit on the low side, they are still useful in extending the vehicle’s range, with peak power being provided by an 85-kilowatt-hour lithium-iron-phosphate battery. Post-retrofit, the trucks, which also feature regenerative braking, can make two runs a day to collect 10 tons of garbage on each run.

Through its hydrogen and fuel cell innovation program, the German transportation ministry spent EUR 0.5 million to support the development of Faun’s Bluepower retrofit kit. Bluepower originates with the Dualpower option the company created in 2006 and has improved upon ever since. The Faun prototype truck that BSR had in regular service from 2011 to 2013 was equipped with a Heliocentris fuel cell system providing energy for the loader body (see HZwei, October 2011).

Faun drew on the expertise gained from that first project to create a fuel cell hybrid powertrain that can be used in trash trucks and street sweepers. In 2018, it showcased a concept study at Munich’s IFAT show, where German environment minister Svenja Schulze seemed quite taken with the idea. This January, the firm unveiled another prototype design, developed in collaboration with Mercedes.

Initially, Faun will reportedly manufacture only a limited of Bluepower hybrid kits. In August, it shipped one newly outfitted truck to ALB – Abfalllogistik Bremen, which will monitor fuel consumption, stability and durability during a 14-week test period. The monitoring data and driver feedback will then be used to make improvements to the vehicle. “The truck needs to be put through its paces and partnering with a waste management firm is the only way to make sure it will,” Faun said.

By the end of this year, Faun will then deliver around 20 units to its regular customers. BSR alone ordered six of them. In 2021, production capacity could increase to around 100 units.

“The aim is to establish an innovation cluster for clean hydrogen in Bremen. We have two municipal companies, Abfalllogistik Bremen and Bremer Straßenbahn, to test the technology, which will open up a lot of opportunities.”

Maike Schaefer, senator for climate action, transportation and housing

The fuel cell hybrid truck is around three times as expensive as its diesel counterpart but consumes only half as much energy. Its service life is higher too, Faun noted. Government funds could also help a great deal in reducing its price tag of EUR 0.75 million. McKinsey consultant Bernd Heid said that “2027 could be the first year in which we see hydrogen trucks getting cheaper than diesel versions.”

… Read more in the latest edition of the H2-International October 2020

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