Another step forward towards climate-neutral waste disposal: In October 2020, Kommunale Servicebetriebe Recklinghausen (KSR) applied for funding support to purchase two hydrogen-powered waste collection vehicles. Now it is clear: The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI – Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur) is supporting KSR’s climate protection initiative with a funding notification amounting to 1,429,785 euros.

The two vehicles powered by particularly environmentally friendly hydrogen technology are to be procured for household waste collection before the end of this year. KSR developed the project in cooperation with the waste disposal company Abfallentsorgungs-Gesellschaft Ruhrgebiet (AGR). A special feature of the project is that the hydrogen needed is produced by electrolysis from the waste collected at AGR’s waste incineration plant in Herten, where it will in future be available for direct refuelling. “In this way, we succeed in creating a cycle of waste collection, disposal and use of the energy generated,” explains Uwe Schilling, KSR’s Operations Manager. “Soon, nothing will stand in the way of emission-free waste collection in the Recklinghausen urban area.”

KSR’s sustainability strategy has a clear goal: to reduce diesel consumption and thus also nitrogen oxide emissions in the vehicle fleet. A number of climate-friendly vehicles, such as passenger cars, vans or e-bikes, are already in use in the company fleet.

“As an administration, we bear responsibility for the environment in our beautiful city of Recklinghausen,” emphasises Mayor Christoph Tesche. “The waste collection vehicles equipped with fuel cell technology that are now in the pipeline are therefore another building block of many in our climate-focused development.” The purchase and subsequent use of the waste collection vehicles directly supports the climate protection goals and clean air plans of the city of Recklinghausen and is therefore also in the interest of Germany’s climate protection strategy. This is not least one of the reasons why KSR’s funding application was approved.

Waste collection vehicles that run on hydrogen are custom-built and designed to meet the needs of the waste management industry and the conditions in the respective collection areas. “We can’t just buy such equipment at a regular dealership,” explains Schilling. “To keep the expenditure as low as possible, we have also joined forces with the waste management companies of the cities of Bochum, Duisburg, Herne and Paderborn to form a purchasing group in addition to AGR.”

As a result, test runs with so-called data collectors were carried out in Recklinghausen as well as in the other cities in the preliminary phase. These are conventional waste collection vehicles powered by diesel engines, which record all data during the actual operation of a waste collection operation. In the course of this, important information about the energy demand and the dimensioning of the technology was determined, after which the vehicles were then finally configured according to the precise local needs of the respective municipality.

The two waste collection vehicles of Kommunale Servicebetriebe run on a lithium iron battery and have a capacity of 85 kilowatt hours each. The vehicles manage to drive 10 to 20 kilometres in purely electric mode – during a haulage journey without hydrogen support. With hydrogen support, a vehicle can cover a total distance of about 200 kilometres. By way of comparison, a diesel-powered refuse truck covers a distance of about 385 kilometres. The vehicles’ 40-kilogram hydrogen tank is refilled in the shortest possible time – within only 15 minutes. The vehicles have a payload of 10.5 tonnes and a collection capacity of at least 20 tonnes of waste.

The cost of this hydrogen-powered vehicle is one million euros. It is essentially electrically powered, but draws its electricity from the hydrogen it carries by means of a fuel cell. The allocated funding supports 90 per cent of the additional costs compared to the price of a conventionally powered waste collection vehicle. The subsidy also covers the costs involved for conversion measures in accordance with current safety requirements to the vehicle hall and workshop building on the KSR premises on Beckbruckweg.

The project is being funded by the BMVI within the scope of the National Innovation Programme Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology with a total of 1,429,785 euros. The funding guideline is coordinated by NOW GmbH and implemented by Project Management Jülich (PtJ).