When Climate Goals Backfire: NYC Electric Garbage Trucks Aren’t Powerful Enough to Double as Snowplows

Electrifying everything in the name of going carbon neutral sometimes just doesn’t work: as it turns out, NYC’s all-electric garbage trucks can’t double as snowplows because they just aren’t powerful enough.

That is what New York City’s Department of Sanitation is learning, as the shortcomings of electricity-powered vehicles are hindering the city’s zero carbon goals. City officials are looking to transition the department’s fleet of 2,100 garbage trucks to electric, but they haven’t found a suitable vehicle that is powerful enough to double as a plow truck during the winter season. The current fleet is comprised of diesel trucks outfitted with a rear loader for curb-side garbage pickup, which also have a front attachment for a snow plow that is then used to clear NYC streets to the equivalent of 19,000 miles.

Back in 2020, former NYC mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order mandating every city-owned vehicle be fully electric before 2040. The sanitation department has thus far ordered seven electric-powered rear loader garbage trucks from truck maker Mack at a hefty price tag of $523,000 each, which are slated for delivery sometime in the spring. However, the trucks will be used strictly for curb-side garbage pickup, because as the department learned via previous tests of electric trucks, they cannot plow city streets for more than four hours before running out of power.

“We found that they could not plow the snow effectively— they basically conked out after four hours. We need them to go 12 hours,” said Sanitation Commissioner Jessica Tisch, as cited by Spectrum News NY1. “Given the current state of the technology, I don’t see today a path forward to fully electrifying the rear loader portion of the fleet by 2040.” Not only are the trucks not powerful enough to clear the city’s streets in a timely manner, the department also faces limitations when it comes to charging them.

The trucks require DC fast chargers, similar to the ones used by Tesla. However, the Department of Sanitation only has access to 13 such charging stations. Although the city is attempting to address the charging network’s shortcomings, it will likely take a lot of capital investment and substantial additional space to put in new electric utility connections.

“We can’t really make significant progress in converting our rear loader fleet until the snow challenges are addressed,” added Tisch.

Information for this briefing was found via Spectrum News and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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