Mobile, Alabama, Fleet acquires Mack LR electric garbage truck equipment
The port city of Mobile on the Gulf Coast, Alabama, took delivery of the state’s first battery-electric municipal garbage truck on July 13 during a brief ceremony at the city’s municipal fleet headquarters.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Simpson accepted the handover of a new Mack LR Electric Truck from Dana Counts, Mack’s Northeast and Southeast Regional Sales Manager.
“We are very excited to take delivery of this vehicle,” Simpson told those attending the ceremony. “For us, this is more than just a first-generation electric truck. This vehicle gives us flexibility and allows us to begin investigating what will ultimately power our entire fleet of garbage trucks in the city of Mobile.”
Mobile, which has a population of 187,000 according to the 2020 census, currently operates a fleet of 26 diesel-powered garbage trucks.
Simpson noted that the Mack LR Electric was priced approximately $600,000. The same diesel truck would cost $300,000. “But in this case, that cost difference was paid for by a grant from the Alabama Department of Commerce and Trade. We were one of the few cities that could receive an ADECA grant of this magnitude. So this assessment project is really a collaborative partnership with the City of Mobile, ADECA, and our friends at Alabama Power Company.”
ADECA was awarded money in the 2014 Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal, in which the German automaker agreed to pay over $14.7 billion to settle allegations that it cheated on diesel emissions from its passenger cars. This money, of which ADECA received a portion, will be used by state and local governments to help offset the cost of EVs during the introductory phase of development and to expedite evaluations in real fleet operations.
Mobile, Simpson added, is the first Alabama city to receive an electric truck of any type for evaluation and testing. The city will continue to seek additional ADECA grants for charging stations and the longer-term development of a comprehensive electric vehicle plan.
The Mack LR is powered by four NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide) lithium-ion batteries, which are charged via a 150 kW, SAE J1772-compliant charging system. This system powers the truck and all onboard accessories from 12V, 24V and 600V circuits. Two electric motors produce 448 continuous horsepower and 4,051 lb.-ft. of peak torque output from zero rpm. The two-stage regenerative braking system helps recover energy from the hundreds of stops the vehicle makes each day as the load increases.
The LR Electric’s cab features a copper-colored bulldog signifying its all-electric powertrain. The Mack LR Electric offers the same driver and passenger side configurations, seat and door options as the Mack LR diesel model. The LR Electric can be equipped with bodies from different manufacturers to meet the individual requirements of each customer.
Decision-making process for Mobile electric trucks
Speaking to HDT after the ceremony, Mack’s Counts noted that it took just over three months for Mobile to finalize the deal to acquire the LR Electric.
“The city wants to electrify and transform into a sustainable, green city,” he said. “They have already done so in the city center, as evidenced by several charging stations that have been installed for passenger cars. And during the acquisition process, the city had very general concerns – actually questions – about the usual things: truck range, charging time, battery life – very common questions we get. We were able to show them data from other Mack LR Electric trials in New York City and Ocala, Florida that this range will be perfectly fine for their operations.”
Counts added that Mack has developed an online tool that anyone interested in initial assessments of electric truck performance can access and use to calculate refuse fleet operating factors (such as topography, geography, number of stops and total distance traveled) to understand how these trucks will behave in their fleets.
“We encourage fleets to use this tool before we even get to a purchase stage so Mack electric forklift experts can definitely tell them how this product fits into their operation,” he said.
Electric trucks are not a panacea
For most fleets, electric trucks will likely only be part of a zero-emissions solution, Counts added.
“For most fleets, electric trucks will not be a panacea for everything,” he said. “Compressed natural gas and diesel will have a place in their operations for a long time to come. But the majority of many fleets in an urban environment have routes that are within a 50 mile radius. The Mack LR Electric can easily meet today’s operational needs. And crucially, as Mayor Simpson just pointed out, the availability of grants from Volkswagen and other funds can now offset the higher purchase price of an electric truck enough that experimenting with this new technology only makes sense.”
Charles Sumrall, fleet manager for the city of Mobile, told HDT he’s primarily interested in total cost of ownership savings with the electric truck.
“We are currently still very much in the exploratory phase,” he said. “I went to South Florida to show the truck before we bought it. And I was impressed by what I saw.”
Sumrall says driver analysis and feedback will be crucial in the coming weeks and months as the new Mack is put through its paces.
“I’m particularly interested in how the maintenance aspect will work,” he added. “There is no engine. No transmission. Instead we have geared motors – which are easy to maintain. We need to drain fluids every six months to a year, do brake work once a year, and change tires about every two years. So I am curious to see how these costs ultimately compare to a diesel truck.”