Low gasoline prices and continuing performance issues have slowed the growth of electric car sales. But that has not stymied progress in electrifying larger vehicles, including garbage trucks, city buses, and medium-sized trucks used by freight giants like FedEx.
The clang of garbage cans will still probably wake people way too early in the morning. But in Santa Rosa, California, at least, the roaring diesel engine will be quiet, replaced by a silent, electric motor.
The electric garbage trucks scheduled to begin rolling there this summer may be less alluring than the sporty vehicles that engineer Ian Wright helped design as co-founder of Tesla Motors. But Wright, who left the high-end electric car company to start Wrightspeed, maker of electric powertrains for medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles, is on a campaign to force large, carbon-belching engines off the road.
“The dream right now is to completely eliminate the nasty, smelly, noisy diesel engines from garbage trucks in five years,” Wright says.
In today’s hyperkinetic world, moving people and things is the planet’s fastest-growing energy-based source of greenhouse gases, with some projections saying that transport emissions could nearly double by mid-century as developing nations industrialize. Climate scientists and policymakers say replacing petroleum-burning engines with alternatives like electric motors is critical to meeting the greenhouse gas-reduction goals set by the international community in Paris last December.
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