I had no idea, until I spoke earlier this week with Ian Wright, founder and CEO of a small San Jose California company called Wrightspeed, that a sizable percentage of garbage trucks (solid waste collection vehicles) in California no longer meet California Air Resources Board (ARB) emission standards and must be replaced. With new trucks costing in the vicinity of $500,000, that could be an expensive proposition.
We want clean air, but we also want solid waste removed, and Wright’s company offers a solution that is attracting the attention of solid waste fleet owners: It has developed a plug-in electric powertrain that can be retrofitted on the trucks in question, allowing them to surpass ARB’s emissions standards by 1,000 percent.
Not only that, but the powertrain, known as Route HD, can also save fleet owners more than $35,000 in fuel costs and $10,000 in maintenance costs per-truck, per-year. According to Wright, that selling proposition is sufficiently attractive to present a potential $2 billion market opportunity for Wrightspeed.
The Route HD uses an onboard turbine generator to charge the battery as needed. It uses CNG, LNG, diesel or landfill gases. Wrightspeed is partnering with The Ratto Group to convert garbage and recycling vehicles in Sonoma and Marin counties from clean diesel to electric drive. “Wrightspeed’s very efficient and super clean powertrains are a great fit for our fleet,” says chief operating officer Lou Ratto.
Consider the alternatives: According to the ARB, engines in heavy vehicles (buses as well as trucks) built prior to 1994 must be replaced next year by model year 2010 or newer engines. Engines built in 1994 or 1995 must be replaced in 2016.
Engines built between 1996 and 1999 can get by with a PM (particulate matter) filter until 2020, after which they’ll need a 2010 or newer engine. Engines built between 2000 and 2004 can get by with a PM filter until 2021, those built in 2005 or 2006 are okay with a PM filter until 2022, and those built between 2007 and 2009 can go until 2023, but after that they all must be replaced. Beginning January 1, 2020, all trucks and buses operating in California will need to be upgraded to 2010 model year engines. The ARB estimates that its regulation applies to nearly one million diesel vehicles operating in California, so reducing pollution from heavy vehicles is a big deal.
And the ARB doesn’t stop there. A good number of medium-duty delivery trucks – the ones that drive a lot of miles each day – will also be able to benefit from Wrightspeed’s technology to avoid a premature demise. Earlier this year FedEx Express took delivery of Wrightspeed’s medium-duty product, the Route, which replaces a truck’s diesel engine, transmission, and differential and, like the Route HD, improves on fuel economy and maintenance costs and exceeds CARB’s emission standards by a factor of ten.
Wright says FedEx has already ordered more Routes. Counting both medium-duty and heavy trucks, Wright estimates his firm’s annual market opportunity at approximately $5 billion.
The company is ramping up as quickly as it can find qualified people. It bears watching.