Location: Ocala, FL
Fleet Type: Municipal Refuse Haulers

 

Narrative

The City of Ocala’s Fleet and Facilities Management Department traditionally utilized gasoline and diesel fuel for their fleet vehicles. They have gradually shifted to electric vehicles, not only for their light-duty fleet, but also for their heavy-duty waste haulers.

The City of Ocala now has more electric garbage trucks on the road and on order than any other sanitation fleet in the country. By the end of 2023, the City will be operating nine electric garbage trucks. Their ultimate goal was to reduce the amount of diesel fuel used annually by 20,000 gallons, and they achieved that goal after the first year of operation of the EV fleet.

John King, the City of Ocala Director of Fleet and Facilities, explained the considerations that went into its decision to go electric: 

  • the increasingly volatile cost of petroleum fuels
  • the high operation and maintenance costs of diesel vehicles
  • the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

One of the department’s operational practices is to take one diesel vehicle in the fleet offline and replace it with an electric one. This began in earnest in 2021. The specifications for the electric waste hauler included the ability to complete a 75 mile route servicing 1,000 residences. That was achieved, and at a lower operational cost than the diesel version.

Outputs and Outcomes

Driver education and community engagement were instrumental to the success of the program. The drivers love the vehicles and are impressed with how their safety aspects (lack of noise and harmful fumes) contribute to their well-being. Training was critical to enable drivers to respond in the case of emergencies and to promote good driving habits that increase vehicle efficiency, such as regenerative braking. Since the vehicles were funded in part by the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), the health benefits to the community, especially school children, was a consideration. There were immediate emission reductions in the community, with both short term and long term metrics having been set for environmental goals. As intended by the DERA grant, the vehicles were deployed in densely populated, minority, low-income urban communities. Many of the residents are predisposed to respiratory sensitivities and are disproportionately impacted by diesel exhaust emissions. Each of these trucks saves about 230 tons of CO2 annually.

The city estimates the long-term cost savings are worth the initial investment. With fewer moving parts, electric-powered trucks cost less to repair and maintain. The new vehicles consume about $30 of electric energy per route, compared to the estimated $130 per route with a traditional diesel vehicle. Combined with the fuel cost savings, the electric trucks are estimated to provide a total life cycle savings of approximately $270,000. These savings translate to a significant return on investment for taxpayers.

The city was able to work with their municipal utility when it came to charging infrastructure and rates. While King’s department paid for the chargers, the utility provided the transformers needed to upgrade service. The city’s engineers and electricians designed and installed the charging facility. The utility also extended the off-peak rate of five cents a kilowatt hour (kWh), vs. thirteen and a half cents per kWh, since the trucks would be charging at night. The fleet has incorporated managed charging and uses telematics for that purpose. The trucks come back at 25% of charge, and charge over night during off-peak hours.

The trucks have also raised community awareness of electric vehicles, but not in a manner that might be expected. One of the drivers indicated he might have to retrain some of the residents on his route, since they won’t be hearing the noisy diesel truck that prompted them to “scurry out with their trash.” The city is also exploring vehicle to grid applications using the vehicles, as they built a community center with a transfer switch, allowing EVs to plug in and shed power.

Best Practices & Lessons Learned

Fleet & Facilities Manger King looked at several manufacturers to “kick the tires” before purchase. He made sure that his city’s executive team understood the technology by starting with a pilot program. They supported the outcomes of the pilot and moved forward. They are sharing their experience with other cities, counties, states and even countries so that their colleagues can replicate their success. King was featured at the 2022 & 2023 CFLCCC Sustainable Transportation & Technology Expos as a speaker and exhibitor, displaying the Mack Refuse Truck.

King advises not to be afraid of failure, especially with a new technology. When you fail, you learn and come up with solutions. But do be responsible with taxpayer money, and be sure to consider environmental benefits, especially with communities at greater risk of negative impacts from diesel pollution. Allow for redundancy in the fleet, by keeping a back-up vehicle, even just for temporary use. Also have redundancy in charging infrastructure. The city has a grant from FEMA to procure a CNG powered generator to support the EV chargers in the event of a power outage.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to John King and Christina Guy of the City of Ocala for sharing their story. Special recognition to Mr. King as well, for his service to the Central Florida Clean Cities Coalition.

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Ocala Fleet Story

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