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In partnership with Veolia, Westminster City Council is proud to reveal its new fleet of fully electric waste collection and street cleansing fleet. Read below to learn more about electrification, why it is important and how we intend to continue our journey towards a carbon neutral footprint.

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1. Background of vehicle electrification

Atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by 48% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and the global use of diesel power. 

In addition, as evidenced by the graph,a significant part of Central London’s air pollution can be traced to traffic and the use of Heavy Goods Vehicles

Air pollution has been associated with development of health conditions such as CHD, stroke, asthma and lung cancer, as referenced in the graphs below:

Air pollution in London Air pollution in central London Air pollution in Westminster

Transportation also emits significant volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) which contributes to climate change. As can be seen on the graph below, the transportation sector is the greatest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.These pollution related conditions can affect anyone, however the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and those with pre-existing health concerns, may be most affected. 

Greenhouse gas emissions in the uk by sector

One way to tackle transportation related emissions  is to use electric vehicles that don’t contribute towards poor air quality. These vehicles don’t directly emit carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere (see below for more information on this), which can help improve public health. 

Electrification, or the process of powering a vehicle with electricity rather than petrol or diesel, supports reducing carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Additionally, with the transport sector’s heavy diesel use being some of the highest emitters of CO2, Westminster City Council knew that prioritising electrifying its fleet was an essential component of its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2040

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2. What is net zero carbon?

Doing nothing and relying on fossil fuels, which emit CO2 when combusted,  is not an option. We have to address climate change now, and in order to take action, we need to come to net zero carbon emissions. 

Achieving net zero carbon emissions means we have balanced the emissions we produce and the emissions we remove from the atmosphere through emissions-saving activities and offsetting. 

We will know we have achieved net zero when the amount we produce every year is less than or equal to the amount that we take away. 

Westminster is committed to net zero carbon by 2030 for its own organisation, with the rest of the city to hit the target by 2040.

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3. Why is Westminster City Council creating an electric fleet?

The City of Westminster has recorded some of the worst air pollution levels in Europe, which makes addressing carbon emissions even more vital to our residents and visitors. 

One way in which Westminster City Council can reduce these emissions is to electrify our waste collection fleet. 

The new electric fleet, which includes collection trucks, sweepers and electric bikes, will be the largest operated by any local authority in the UK, and it will support an 89% reduction of carbon emissions when compared to a diesel powered fleet.  

Our efforts have led us to be recognised as ‘The Most Sustainable Fleet Management Department’ at the 2020 LAPV Future Fleet Awards and win the ‘Circular Economy Success’ category at the Awards for Excellence. More recently, the 2021 GREENFLEET Awards recognised Westminster City Council, partnered with Veolia, as the Commercial Fleet Operator of the Year.

Westminster fleet awards 2020
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Electric waste vehicle for Westminster
Veolia and Westminster electric truck
Why is Westminster City Council creating an electric fleet?
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4. What are the benefits of electrification?

The benefits of electrification may include cost savings (see below for more), but the main benefit is the significant reduction of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Whereas diesel-fueled engines produce air pollution shown to damage not only the environment but public health as well, electric vehicles would reduce that problem because they’re emission free. While some may argue that electric vehicles still require electricity which may be generated from fossil fuels, it is important to point out that even with electricity generated from fossil fuels, the overall CO2 emissions are lower than using diesel. Additionally, fossil fuels will not be the dominant method of generating electricity in the years to come. Studies also show that the reduced carbon emissions over the course of the vehicle’s lifespan offset any fossil fuels needed to both build the vehicles and generate their power.

Westminster City Council countered these arguments even further by avoiding the use of fossil-fuel generated electricity altogether. We did this by directly using the electricity generated by SELCHP, our energy recovery facility. This allows us to create a closed-loop energy solution that doesn’t rely on London’s already congested electricity grid. This is key, as additional demand placed on the power grid could see other renewable electricity displaced due to capacity constraints. Instead, our vehicles will be charged directly by SELCHP using electricity generated from treating Westminster’s (non-recyclable)  general waste. This also helps reduce running costs and allows for additional efficiencies. An added benefit of Westminster’s new fleet is that the general (non-recyclable) waste collected generates electricity to power the vehicles.

We also found throughout the seven-year lifespan of a waste collection vehicle, an electric fleet was not only more sustainable, but also more cost effective. In comparison to a standard Euro 6 diesel waste collection truck, early life cycle cost analysis suggests a savings of several thousand pounds per month per electric truck.

Our partnership with Veolia, who have a wealth of international experience with electric vehicle solutions and energy systems, allows us to tap into their expertise and successfully develop this complex project. Veolia’s energy teams have also paved the way for powering the fleet by installing smart charging infrastructure across Westminster’s street cleansing and vehicle depots.

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Electric fleet
How you can help reduce carbon emissions
Reducing carbon emissions on a wider scale across London
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5. How do electric waste collection trucks work?

The new fleet of waste collection trucks will run entirely on electric motors. Although most of these e-RCVs will be newly built, Westminster City Council also sought to reuse old trucks where possible. We did this by converting some of the old diesel trucks with electric motors, which allowed much of the old vehicle and chassis to be reused rather than discarded. This initiative was recognised at the Awards for Excellence 2019.

Rather than running continuously like combustion engines do, our vehicle’s electric motors only require energy when they are active. This helps solve an industry-wide challenge around truck battery life. Our electric vehicles only need to be charged once per shift at one of our two truck depots, and the smaller street cleansing fleet will be able to charge at our local neighbourhood depots.

Another major benefit of electric motors is that they are virtually silent while in operation, which helps tackle issues in Westminster around noise nuisance.

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6. Our innovative types of electric vehicles

Trial of innovative electric tricycles in WestminsterIn partnership with Veolia, Westminster City Council has also electrified our street cleansing operation. All mechanical street sweeping and washing vehicles are now electrically powered. This helps both save carbon emissions and allows for a much quieter operation. 

We also worked with Veolia’s Singapore operations to trial the use of bespoke electric pedal tricycles. These tricycles are specially designed for small-scale on-street waste collection. They are not only energy efficient, but they also hold up to 150kg (usual street sweeping barrows hold up to 20kg), all whilst maintaining manoeuvrability in pedestrian areas and other locations with limited space. Their trial was so successful that we have made them a permanent part of our fleet.

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Electric fleet
Electric fleet launch
Reducing carbon emissions
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7. Other ways Westminster City Council reduces carbon emissions

Our sustainability goals are not limited to electrifying our waste collection fleet. We have pledged to be zero carbon by 2040, and comprehensive change is required in order to achieve this. 

Westminster City Council is reducing carbon emissions in a variety of ways, including:  

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Westminster City Council’s first electric refuse collection trucks
Electric vehicle
Electric tricycle
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8. Reducing carbon emissions on a larger scale across London

As London continues to grow — by 2050 it is expected to have a population of more than 11 million — reducing emissions is becoming increasingly important. 

London’s congestion charge and its Ultra Low Emission Zone are currently at the forefront of its efforts towards tackling carbon and pollutant emissions from traffic. Looking ahead, the capital will introduce local zero-emissions zones in 2025 which will expand until they cover the whole of the city. 

These initiatives will continue to expand as we seek to reduce our carbon emissions on a wider scale. 

We are also doing what we can to reduce our carbon impact by ensuring the waste we collect from your businesses is recycled and processed to high environmental standards, saving on CO2 emissions.

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Carbon emissions
Reduce co2
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9. How you can help reduce carbon emissions

There are many ways businesses in Westminster can help reduce their carbon emissions. Learning how to reduce waste is an important first step. It is also important to be mindful of how your suppliers manage their carbon footprint. 

Reducing the number of vehicle journeys in Westminster is a key component. One way to achieve this is to consider Westminster City Council for your waste collection needs. Our legal obligations as a Waste Collection Authority mean that we must pick up waste on every street of Westminster regardless. Since we are already driving past your business every day, you have the peace of mind knowing that your waste collection is not adding to your carbon footprint. 

Most importantly, Westminster City Council is currently the only waste and recycling provider in the borough with a fully electric fleet. We are at the forefront of the City’s goal towards net zero emissions. Choosing our services showcases your business’ commitment to achieving net zero emissions. We are the only organisation in Westminster who can help businesses reduce their carbon emissions through their waste, and we’re excited to partner with you.

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