WILMINGTON – The City of Wilmington is about to become one of the first cities in the state to use an electric vehicle for trash pickup.
Tuesday night city council unanimously accepted a grant from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality for $270,586. That amount is a 45% reimbursement for the city’s purchase of a $573,321 electric garbage vehicle and the necessary $27,982 charging equipment.
The acquisition will make the City of Wilmington one of the first North Carolina municipalities to deploy a zero-emission garbage collection vehicle.
The hauler should arrive sometime between late 2021 to mid-2022.
In an interview earlier this month, Wilmington Sustainability Project Manager David Ingram explained a garbage hauler is an ideal vehicle to replace with electric technology as they tend to take frequent stops and starts, which produces extra emission.
A Wilmington ad hoc task force recently published a clean energy report that outlines a path for how the city could ditch all its diesel vehicles and replace them with an entirely zero-emission fleet by 2050. (Council has yet to officially adopt this as a goal, but a resolution regarding the objective will be on the agenda at an upcoming meeting.)
To launch those efforts, Wilmington was one of six recipients for $1.3 million in statewide funds distributed as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act program, which aims to reduce air pollution.
Statewide, the program is replacing a total of 21 diesel-powered vehicles with cleaner alternatives, including another refuse hauler in Cary and a transit bus in Charlotte.
The City of Wilmington must provide a 55% match with $154,812 from its fleet replacement fund and $212,575 from its trash and recycling fund.
The city also needs to pay $36,667 out of pocket for the electrical upgrades necessary to install the charging infrastructure at the City Operations Complex.
Per the grant requirements, the city has to rid of a diesel-powered vehicle manufactured before 2009. It has chosen a decommissioned 2008 packer vehicle. According to the city, the scrap metal would exceed its resale value.
Although it would only cost $183,000 to replace the packer — less than half the price of the electric vehicle — the city expects to see a positive return on its investment in five years through savings on energy and maintenance, according to a city memo. Ingram said the electric vehicle has a life expectancy of 12 years, while the diesel trucks the city owns typically last seven year.
“The electric truck has very minimal moving parts, so to speak,” Ingram told the council Tuesday. “It has an electric motor, it doesn’t use any fluids, and requires much less maintenance than a conventional vehicle.”
Council member Charlie Rivenbark questioned the lithium batteries needing replacements in electric vehicles.
“We’re talking about sunshine and electric vehicles,” Rivenbark said. “What is the downside?”
Omar Sandlin, a representative from Lion Electric Co., said the battery warranty is eight years.
“At the end of that eight years we guarantee that you will have 65% of the initial use of that battery,” Sandlin said. “No batteries are going to hold 100% charge.”
There are more than 400 Lion Electric vehicles in operation as of Tuesday and there has yet to be a battery or motor failure, according to Sandlin. However the trash trucks are new technology. Sandlin said there is a backlog for orders from Charleston to Chattanooga to Miami, but none are on the road yet.
“We’re not going into this with somebody who has absolutely no history, but the trash use is relatively new,” Ingram said.
The clean energy task force is proposing the city transitions 10% of its 600-plus vehicle fleet to electric by 2025. That percentage is slated in the timeline to increase to 50%, by 2035, then 75% by 2045 and 100% by 2050.
To reach these benchmarks, the task force is proposing the city implement new policies in the coming years, such as requiring that all vehicle purchases moving forward are only hybrid or electric, or include charging as part of any plans for new construction.
City awarded $20,000 for compost bins
Also at the city’s Tuesday meeting, the council accepted a $20,000 grant to purchase 600 backyard compost bins to give out to residents for free and run an accompanying educational campaign.
The bins are estimated to make a 190-ton waste reduction impact when used by all the households.
“It’s a significant waste reduction effort, as well as amend[s] the soil in our local community,” Ingram told the council.
The North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Customer Service is administering the funds through the solid waste management outreach program. The city has to provide a 20% match – a $4,000 contribution – for the project. It is allocating the money from the recycling and trash services operating budget.
The compost bins, made by FreeGarden Earth, will be given to residents at no charge. They are 80 gallons each, are UV resistant and made out of 100% recycled content material with screw-on lids to keep out animals and pests. Residents will need to submit an application to receive a bin.
The funding will also help to organize how-to composting workshops, social media campaigns and educational materials.
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