5 September 2018 by Elizabeth Slow

Veolia to trial waste-powered electric RCVs

Veolia has announced it is to trial ‘the world’s first’ electric refuse collection vehicles (RCV) charged directly by power derived from non-recyclable household waste.

The project in Sheffield will see two 26 tonne RCVs converted from diesel to electric power in a scheme to “accelerate the transition” to zero emission heavy goods, the waste and resources firm says. Funding for the vehicle trials was sought by Sheffield city council earlier this year (see letsrecycle.com story) and has now been secured.

Household waste

Veolia expects the two electric RCVs to be converted and operational by the end of the year

The two vehicles are to be charged using the electricity generated from the non-recyclable household waste that fuels the city’s energy recovery facility (ERF).

A spokesperson for Veolia confirmed that vehicles will be able to visit charging points at the ERF, which will use electricity generated from the waste to charge the RCVs, without it entering the national grid.

The project is backed by a grant from the government’s Innovation Funding Service (Innovate UK) which will enable two converted RCVs to be trialed over the next two years.

According to Veolia, the lorries will be powerful enough to negotiate 25% gradients on hills even when fully loaded, and are expected to be converted and operational by the end of the year. The project will also see the conversion of an additional two RCVs which will be used in trials in London.

Recent introduction

This latest move by Veolia to decarbonise vehicles follows the recent introduction of zero emission electric street sweeping vehicles, which the company says is “another first for the UK”. The five new electric sweepers will save 78 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the environment each year, Veolia reports.

In a similar scheme, the company has also introduced electric powered eco-vans to hospital contracts in Liverpool and Southport to make hospital day-to-day work more environmentally friendly. These are recharged using the low carbon electricity generated by the hospital combined heat and power (CHP) plants managed by Veolia. Other low emission compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles operate in Camden, where they carry out graffiti removal, and these vehicles refuel from Veolia’s new compressed natural gas (CNG) refuelling station.

Clean air

Commenting on this latest innovation Gary Clark, Veolia’s UK fleet director, said: “This project highlights Veolia’s strong commitment to clean air initiatives as we look to improve the environment in our cities.

In the future, Veolia plans for the RCVs to be charged from charging points at the city’s energy recovery facility

“By working closely with our customers to deliver fleet solutions that lower emissions we help them ensure they deliver real value for money, and limit costs for local tax payers. By recharging the vehicles from the Energy Recovery Facility this approach also show how local authorities and the public sector can drive sustainability and use green energy to address their environmental challenges.”


The Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) in Sheffield generates electricity for the National Grid and heat for the city’s district heating network. Configured as a combined heat and power plant it also supplies heat and hot water to over 150 buildings including the Town Hall, Crucible Theatre and Weston Park Museum.

According to Veolia, Sheffield’s approach means that it sends less than 1% of its household waste to landfill, “one of the lowest figures in the UK,” the company says.

Veolia collects Sheffield’s non-recyclable household waste (black bin waste) and sends this to the Energy Recovery Facility, where it’s burnt to produce enough electricity for over 22,600 homes.

Waste sector

Other companies within the waste and resource sector are also looking at the role of electric RCVs. Recently FCC Environment announced it was to take a vehicle from Spain on tour in the UK to show to local authorities (see letsrecycle.com story).

(Updated: 5 September, 17.00) Birmingham city council has advised letsrecycle.com that the authority operated electric vehicles in the 1950s, which were charged at depots using electricity from its waste incinerators. A spokesperson said for anyone wishing to see the vehicle it is on display at the city’s museum.


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