Wealden District Council’s waste contractor Biffa has confirmed it plans to trial electric bin lorries later this year.
At today’s meeting of the East Sussex Joint Waste and Recycling Committee, representatives of the waste contractor Biffa confirmed it planned to trial electric vehicles in the county later this year.
The move follows on from a discussion at the committee’s last meeting in October where councillors expressed support for a move to electric vehicles.
Initially the plan had been to run a trial in Hastings alone, but Biffa says it now plans to run trials in all three areas covered by the contract – Hastings, Rother and Wealden.
Speaking at the meeting, Biffa’s regional general manager Fabrice Bouchon said:
We had a really lively conversation last time. Since then we have been arranging for a couple of trials that we will be doing in each of the three authorities.
We are firming up the dates but so far we believe that one trial will take place in April, or by the end of April, and then another trial will be more around mid-July.
Again, we have not yet fully confirmed the dates but they will be around three week trials of electric RCVs (refuse collection vehicles).
Because the configurations are different within Hastings, Wealden and Rother, we will have a better understanding about the vehicles; what their technical performances can be, their autonomy, their weight, quality etcetera.Biffa’s regional general manager Fabrice Bouchon
While news of the trials was welcomed, there were some questions around the need for testing at all.
Hastings councillor Paul Barnett (Lab) said:
One of the things you mentioned last time was how successful you had been in changing over in Manchester to electric vehicles.
I think, if I am right, you had already done an extensive trial in Manchester and now rolled out a 100 per cent electric fleet [there].
I wonder if you can tell us a bit more about how you worked your way through that process and why we need to do the same thing in East Sussex [and] whether or not the data that has been collected elsewhere in the country could be applicable here.
My major concern is not that we take a decision about moving towards sustainable transport; it’s how fast we do it. The danger of a gentle considered process is that it will be 2030 before we actually make our minds about anything.
Cllr Barnett urged Biffa to speed up their work on moving to an electric fleet and argued that the costs of running an electric fleet would be lower than diesel, despite the higher upfront costs.
This was somewhat disputed by Biffa representatives, however, who said the long-term maintenance costs of electric vehicles compared to diesel were “close”. This was largely because any vehicles would incur significant maintenance costs to its non-mechanical parts, they said.
Biffa representatives also said the situation in Manchester had also been different in terms of its infrastructure and vehicle replacement costs.
There was a particular difference in cost, Biffa said, as the company had inherited an aged fleet in Manchester which was in need of replacement. Even so, the company had not planned to move to a 100 per cent electric fleet there either.
Biffa’s representatives said they planned to report back with further details about electric vehicle trials in East Sussex at the committee’s next meeting in March.
However they also confirmed the company was already moving ahead with plans to buy a light electric-powered van to operate in St Leonards. While it was planned for this vehicle to replace a supervisor van, Biffa also said other vehicles may not be suitable for electric replacements due to issues around practicality and weight.