Electrics vs hydraulics08 March 2010

Efficiency and flexibility are key in the waste management vehicle market, but which are the engineering solution suppliers most likely to clean up?

It seems a relatively short time ago that people's perception of recycling was limited to bottle banks in their local park, and rubbish collected from premises in black sacks. But the encouraging push to recycle, coupled with numerous roll-out schemes for wheelie bins across the country, has had two major effects. On the one hand made, yes, it has made the process and the country more efficient and environmentally friendly. On the other, for many operators, there have been key investment and engineering challenges, as well as the obvious new business opportunities.

Onboard power supply outfit Antares has been working on two green solutions in the waste management sector that the company hopes will soon see the light of day, ideally through attracting the attention of municipal vehicle manufacturers. The first product, as sales director Charlie McClelland explains, was borne out of a conversation with fellow stand holders at an exhibition in 2008.

"The people next door to us manufactured the part that lifts the bin up on a RCV [refuse collection vehicle], which was hydraulically pumped via the PRO [power take-off]," he explains. "We got chatting to them, and asked why they undertake the procedure using hydraulics, rather than electric power." That question prompted said neighbouring company to think about the source of power – and Antares to start exploring the possibility of using the PTO itself to generate the power to lift the bins.

In its initial investigations, Antares discovered its solution could offer a time saving of up to two seconds per bin lift, which, as the company says – when considering the rate of collections per hour/per day, per crew/per vehicle – has massive potential. "If you have a large fleet of RCVs, then it is a huge potential saving," says McClelland. "By saving just one second from each bin lift, in some cases we can achieve a one-in-20 reduction on municipal fleets."

The power achieved by using the PTO from the vehicle's automatic transmission could reach a maximum of 30kVA, and Antares is hoping that manufacturers will realise the benefits over hydraulic systems. The system can be provided as a retrofit item, as well as standard fit for new vehicles, but McClelland is not committing on costs. "In retrofit terms, the cost of the system would be less than the operating costs of a brand new vehicle," he offers. "It would be a different cost on a new vehicle, and the difference between electrical power and hydraulic would be negligible – maybe even more cost effective to run on the electrical system." McClelland does reveal, however, that he is in advanced talks with one manufacturer and is hopeful of a breakthrough soon.

While waiting for that breakthrough, Antares is also working on what McClelland calls electrification of the bin emptying operation itself. Designed for use in collections from blocks of flats, the idea is effectively to operate the RCV as a zero-emission vehicle when in its' loading operation.

"At the moment, these vehicles only have hydraulic lifters and a compactor that squashes the refuse in," explains McClelland. "We are talking to one of the London authorities about electrification of the cart. What they want is business as usual from a refuse collection point of view, but with the engine switched off."
The challenge for Antares is to devise a power source large enough to supply the energy needed for roughly a dozen bin lifts per block of flats. "As well as efficiency gains," McClelland explains, "there is the potential impact on noise levels. We are talking about replacing the noise generated by the engine, revving to power the PTO, with the hum of electric motors, so there is a big drop in the noise level during operation."

A final advantage of the electrical approach, says McClelland, is potentially lower maintenance costs. "The assumption is that these vehicles will be running with automatic gearboxes, which are self contained units and don't require fluid changes, like a conventional gearbox. There is limited maintenance needed with electric cables, so we believe the change [to electric] should reduce overall maintenance issues."

A clean slate for PHS
All components of a waste management vehicle or RCV are being evaluated in the search for potential efficiency savings – and tyres are one of the aspects to yield results. When it was asked to look into the fleets of PHS All Clear and PHS Wastetech, ATS Euromaster was able to highlight a number of areas of improvements.
"We looked at 314 trucks for PHS, using our electronic fleet inspection that records data on every tyre on every vehicle, before ascertaining how the fleet was used," recalls the head of business development at ATS, Kevin Steward.
"From this information, we were able to identify the right tyres for the job, because we felt that we could find a better tyre for the application. The fact that the waste management business is moving away from landfill sites to refuse waste fill sites was a major factor in us being able to get a 20% reduction in tyre damage on PHS' fleet."

Special delivery
Searching for more flexibility in its fleet of recycling and waste management vehicles, DA Autoparts turned to Truck Specialists to engineer a multi-purpose draw-bar truck and trailer system.

The solution consists of two 40-cubic-yard containers, one of which is equipped with a crane to maximise versatility and speed when picking up metals for recycling. The crane-mounted container can be used on the draw-bar trucks, with the crane at the front or on its trailer – again with the crane positioned at the front.

In the latter layout, DA's crane is able to load both containers with ease. Quick release hydraulic couplings and circuitry enable the crane to be operated by the existing draw-bar unit.

John Challen

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