Location: Boulder, CO Fleet Type: Nonprofit, Waste Management Organization
Eco-Cycle’s fleet success story is one about patience. Eco-Cycle is a nonprofit organization located in Boulder, Colorado that implements and advocates for sustainable waste management practices, including recycling, composting, and waste diversion initiatives. The organization operates the Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM) and the Boulder County Recycling Center, and also provides Zero Waste hauling services to businesses and organizations in the region.
Eco-Cycle was established in 1976 by a dedicated group of individuals with a vision to introduce one of the first curbside recycling programs in the United States. To kickstart this initiative, Eco-Cycle repurposed several old school buses, transforming them into collection vehicles for recyclables across the community. Over the span of 47 years, the organization has remained at the forefront of advocating for recycling policies and programs. Through continuous efforts, Eco-Cycle has expanded its services and educational initiatives, positioning itself as a leader, and risk-taker, within the industry. Along the way, the organization has achieved several groundbreaking milestones, marking several “first of its kind” accomplishments.
In the Spring of 2023, Eco-Cycle deployed the first all-electric compost collection truck in the nation. The achievement was the culmination of over two years of work, marked by a combination of challenges, delays, troubleshooting, and patience. The journey began in the Fall of 2020 when Mack unveiled the LR Electric truck, one of the first all-electric refuse trucks on the market. By Spring of 2021, Eco-Cycle initiated internal discussions and engaged with the manufacturer to explore how they could purchase the vehicle. It took a series of conversations, often cold calls, with Mack and the local dealer to get a quote for the vehicle and to convince them to sell the truck to Eco-Cycle.
Eco-Cycle received the vehicle quote just days before the ALT Fuels Colorado Program deadline, which offered funding for alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure, and successfully submitted their application. In August of 2021, Eco-Cycle was awarded funding to purchase the vehicle and the associated charging infrastructure. The organization placed the order soon after, anticipating the vehicle’s arrival in early 2022. However, a series of delays by the manufacturer and the upfitter pushed the delivery date to March of 2023.
While Eco-Cycle was awaiting the delivery of the vehicle, the organization was also tasked with figuring out the charging component of this project. With little expertise in this space, Eco-Cycle deferred to Mack who recommended using Gilbarco and their Tritium charger. It took over a year and a half to receive the equipment. Meanwhile, the organization had to work with Xcel Energy to bring additional power to the transformer on the site. This required Eco-Cycle to work with the City of Boulder, who owns the property, and Xcel Energy to establish an easement to continue work on the project.
After resolving initial complications, the charger was installed on-site, commissioned just a week after the truck’s delivery. However, the charger encountered hardware issues, necessitating replacement parts to be delivered. Simultaneously, the truck was in active use, prompting Eco-Cycle to come up with innovative methods to cool the charger, ensuring its functionality. Following several months of troubleshooting, the charger dilemma was successfully resolved. Since August 2023, Eco-Cycle has been fully operational with the vehicle and the charger, marking a significant achievement in their endeavor.
Outputs and Outcomes
The project resulted in the nation’s first all-electric compost collection truck supported by a 75-kW dual-port charger. The truck currently operates 5-days a week, serving routes across Boulder County. In its 2022 Annual Report, Eco-Cycle estimates that the vehicle will travel roughly 15,000 miles per year, contributing to a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 2,500 tons over the vehicle’s lifetime. The organization also has another all-electric truck on order, which is expected to arrive early next year. Eco-Cycle is on its way to supporting Zero Waste and Zero Emissions in the communities it serves.
Best Practices & Lessons Learned
Justin Stockdale, CHaRM & Zero Waste Hauling Director at Eco-Cycle, acknowledged the support from everyone involved in this journey. He emphasized patience as the main theme of this story. Eco-Cycle took a risk, operating at the forefront of the commercial EV transition. Each stage of the project involved learning and adapting, both from Eco-Cycle and the external parties involved, like the vehicle and charger manufacturers.
Eco-Cycle is actively gathering data about the vehicle and refining internal protocols. The organization is in the process of integrating software to monitor energy usage, ensuring compliance with utility and grant agreements. Currently, Eco-Cycle manually charges the vehicle during off-peak hours due to current limitations. Moreover, evolving rules from the composter have added complexity to route planning. Eco-Cycle is strategically determining optimal routes tailored to the vehicle’s capabilities and is exploring mid-day charging to ensure successful completion of daily tasks.
Driver feedback has played a crucial role in this process. According to Justin, drivers have loved operating the vehicle. Adapting to optimize the vehicle’s range and energy efficiency has necessitated a shift in the drivers’ mindset, marking another significant step in the organization’s learning curve.
Eco-Cycle looks to apply the lessons learned to future EV adoption. The organization is beginning to realize the cost savings of EVs. Early vehicle telematics data suggests a nearly 80% operational cost reduction on a per mile basis. Eco-Cycle remains on course to its commitment to Zero Waste and Zero Emissions. In line with this vision, the organization plans to expand its electric fleet while also incorporating on-site renewable energy solutions, reinforcing its dedication to sustainable practices.