Jet turbines may soon power your local electric trash trucks
While it may sound like something my three-and-a-half-year-old would invent while playing with Lego, the world will soon have jet-powered, electric garbage trucks. Better yet, these super-charged vehicles should use less fuel than current models without being any noisier than the trucks that currently wake us up on Tuesday mornings. Even cooler is the fact that while some of these trucks will be brand new, your city’s current fleet might be upgradable without needing to be replaced outright.
The concept is being developed by one of the original founders of Tesla Motors, Ian Wright. Seeing garbage trucks as the unfortunate sources of diesel pollution that they are, Wright has been working on combining a jet turbine engine with an electric motor. Similar to other heavy, electric vehicles, the gas-burning jet engine isn’t there to make these these fastest truck on the road, but to power the generator for the electric drivetrain that actually gets the truck around town. So fossil fuels will only be consumed periodically throughout a trucks route, while the electric motor provides more immediate torque (around 400 horsepower) than a traditional engine.
Jet engine justification
At this point, the world is getting pretty used to the benefits of electric motors for our vehicles, but jet turbines don’t turn up on the road very often. Wright’s motivation wasn’t just to add some panache to these fuel-saving garbage trucks, but also because turbines are very well suited for this kind of task. They’re lighter weight than a similarly-powered conventional engine, and can be fueled by a wider variety of combustibles than just gasoline. That said, these turbines will likely be burning diesel or natural gas, but at such high temperatures they’ll burn the fuel more completely, lowering emissions. The fact that the turbines won’t be constantly revving up and down also allows them to run more efficiently, since they’ll be responding to battery levels, not changing road conditions.
At this point, a few companies are running a few of these electric jet trucks, but their numbers are still in the double-digits. The first garbage truck will be a retro-fitted Mack LR, and hopefully the other 150,000 other trash trucks around the country won’t wait too long to follow. While this electric-turbine system probably runs close to $200,000 per truck, lower fuel and maintenance costs should help offset that cost. When factoring in the cleaner air and cool-factor, it seems like something every kid will be looking forward to seeing on their street next Tuesday.
Source: A Tesla Co-Founder Is Making Electric Garbage Trucks With Jet Tech, and Why Not by Jack Stewart, Wired