The use of alternative drive systems for waste collection vehicles is assuming an increasingly important role. Natural gas, hydrogen or electric vehicles produce fewer emissions than diesel vehicles and are much quieter when in operation. For the first time, Umweltservice Bochum GmbH (USB Bochum GmbH) has procured a hydrogen and a natural gas waste collection vehicle.

The hydrogen-powered waste collection vehicle is the first in the USB fleet. Fundamentally, the hydrogen vehicle is an electric vehicle. The electric energy is produced by fuel cells that are supplied with hydrogen. In this way, the vehicle battery is constantly recharged and the necessary range for waste collection is achieved. The intervals at which the vehicle needs to be refuelled will be tested over the next few weeks in operation during the collection of non-recyclable waste. It is envisaged that the filled hydrogen tanks will be sufficient for two working days. The 772,000 euro vehicle has been co-financed with funds from the federal “Clean Air” programme (see below). The acquisition of three more hydrogen vehicles is also planned. The federal government is contributing about 1.87 million euros from the “NIP II Market Activation” programme. The funding totals so far cover about 90 percent of the additional costs of these purchases.

A waste collection vehicle powered by natural gas or biogas (CNG) is also a new addition to the USB waste collection fleet. Taking into account the respective exhaust emission standard, the new vehicle emits about 20 percent less carbon dioxide than a comparable diesel-powered model. The emission of soot particles and nitrogen oxides can even be reduced by about 80 percent.

The vehicle in question is a state-of-the-art Scania low-floor model which, with a gross vehicle weight of approx. 26 tonnes, can load approximately ten tonnes of waste. The vehicle is used for paper collection in the Wattenscheid and Hordel districts. The vehicle is equipped with four tanks for natural gas on each side, which together hold around 180 kilograms of CNG. First experiences have shown that two to three complete shifts can be completed with this.

USB has already gained a significant amount of experience with electric drives and has already integrated a large number of e-vehicles into its fleet. USB was one of the first companies to have its conventional diesel vehicles converted to an electric drive system. Four converted rubbish collection vehicles (truck tippers) are now on the roads in municipal cleaning operations. The next conversion is one size larger: the Orten E 100 (formerly Mercedes Atego) is used as a fully electric truck in waste collection for transporting refrigeration equipment.

Future orientation of USB in alternative drive systems

The different drive system types (CNG, hydrogen, electric) will be tested extensively in practice so that a decision can then be made as to which technology will prove most effective in everyday waste collection. “In order to achieve a reduction in CO2 emissions, we don’t wish to put our faith solely in electric mobility. Rather, we are also keeping an eye on other drive systems, such as hydrogen or gas,” explains Rüdiger Schalla, Head of the Technology Department.

Funding support

The “Waste Collection Vehicles with Hydrogen” project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure as part of the National Innovation Programme Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology with a total of 1.87 million euros. Support is also available under the “Clean Air 2017-2020” funding programme of the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. Among the projects funded from this were an electrically powered waste collection vehicle and the first hydrogen vehicle. The funding guidelines are coordinated by NOW GmbH and implemented by Project Management Jülich (PtJ). The gas vehicle was procured independently of the funding programme.