Malcolm Bates IFAT Review - Bigger is Better

IFAT Waste & Recycling Plant Equipment Review

This year, Malcolm Bates spent three days at IFAT in Munich - and still didn’t get to meet everyone on his list! So what are the latest trends we should all be looking out for? The most innovative new products? And which brands are the ones to watch? Let’s find out...

Sennebogen took the prize for using the biggest ‘NEW’ lettering to announce the arrival of the new ‘355E’ telehandler range with a unique hydraulically-raised, extended cab feature.

Image © Malcolm Bates

This year, Malcolm Bates spent three days at IFAT in Munich - and still didn’t get to meet everyone on his list! So what are the latest trends we should all be looking out for? The most innovative new products? And which brands are the ones to watch? Let’s find out...

Let’s start with some statistics - after all, we are talking about an event held in Germany, so we can be sure there will be plenty! The 2018 IFAT event attracted a total of 141,000 visitors from 160 countries - a 4% increase over the previous event in 2016.

Can you name 160 different countries? No, me neither. In total, 3,305 exhibitors took space this year. True, a large number of the 18 covered halls were devoted to water supply and sewer technology, with just seven directly or indirectly dedicated to waste collection and recycling plant and vehicles.

But even if we do a bit of simple math and take a wild guess (Munich Messe hasn’t published a breakdown of visitor’s specific interests), the statistics suggest that a minimum of 60,000 visitors could have been specifically interested in waste collection, handling and recycling equipment. Even that figure is still mightily impressive.

My point? IFAT really is International. Perhaps an even wider use of English as the ‘official show language’ would make life easier for overseas visitors with English as their second language, but IFAT is already far more international than any other European event. Within a few hours, I had met friends and contacts from the USA, Portugal, Spain, Australia, Finland, Denmark, France and Italy - as well as from Germany and the UK, of course.

Interestingly, whatever the mix, the common language was English - even when nobody from the UK, or USA was present! Data collected by leading manufacturer, Faun recorded visitors from 14 different countries (aside from Germany), including Israel, Russia, Chile, Egypt, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand to the company’s stand - all on the first day of the event!

Enough of the statistics. What about ‘the buzz’ from the event? Predictably, one of the key topics of conversation was the whole issue of alternative fuel technology - and specifically, which way our industry should go in meeting the calls for reduced-emissions in inner-city zones from the environmental lobby.

Leaving aside the obvious argument that highway engineering schemes in many urban areas have had the effect of slowing down traffic flows (on the pretext that slower vehicles are ‘safer’ for cyclists and pedestrians) which have had the side effect of increasing pollution, our industry is now facing a number of very expensive options that will do nothing to prevent transport and collection vehicles from getting stuck in traffic. It’s just that they will be producing fewer emissions while doing so!

THE CHALLENGE - GETTING THE ‘THEORY’ TO MATCH REALITY
If there is a practical advantage in operating true ‘zero emissions’ battery electric vehicles - the term is not strictly true as battery electrics will still produce dust emissions and some noise - then it is that quieter vehicles have the ability to undertake collections in urban downtown areas  earlier in the morning, or perhaps throughout the night, without disturbing residents. 

Yes, you could argue that ‘quietness’ is just another side effect - a bonus, of you prefer - but discussions with design and development engineers at IFAT suggest there are still a few very difficult ‘what if?’ questions to answer before the potential purchasers of new, zero-emissions vehicles have the confidence to go ahead with large fleet orders. But I would argue this ‘side effect’ is a far more positive one. In fact, it could tip the whole economic balance in favour of electrics.

Putting it bluntly, aside from any specific national or International law banning currently-legal diesel vehicles in city centres, it’s difficult to put a cash value on zero emissions vehicles. How much is cleaner air worth?

This is not a cynical question - if electric garbage collection vehicles cost more to purchase, yet only do say, 75% of the work, one way or another, local taxpayers will have to pay the difference. In this case, up to double the cost.

Yes, at present, an electric vehicle will cost around twice as much as that of a perfectly legal diesel unit. It may, or may not, carry the same payload at the same sort of speeds - typically, it will lose at least a tonne and be marginally slower.

On the other hand? What was once seen as a major drawback - lack of battery ‘range’ to last an entire working shift - does now seem to be less of an issue. The big problem? A battery electric vehicle will still have another ‘zero’ attached to it’s use - zero residual value after a working life that, at present, can only be guessed at.

In theory, it should outlast a diesel vehicle, but it has to last for more than seven years on the original batteries to ‘break even’ (compared to a diesel vehicle’s running costs) in order to be economically viable. And that’s still not ‘a given’ fact.

Any plus points, then? Again, discussions at IFAT suggest that yes, there are - braking system and tyre maintenance and replacement costs are considerably lower on battery electric trucks, according to PVI distributor Brian Olesen from Phoenix Danmark. And recent hikes in diesel fuel costs, suggest more real savings might be had.

But here’s the biggest potential bonus - an electric vehicle working a very early morning shift downtown, should be able to collect the same amount of garbage in significantly less time than a conventional diesel-fuelled vehicle that is unable to start the shift before 6.30 or 7am and then gets stuck in commuter traffic.

Except? Except in many of the world’s destination cities, there are local laws in place that prevent garbage trucks from working before that time - even electric ones! That has to change.

The bottom line? Simple. If an electric RCV costs twice as much as a diesel vehicle, it needs to do twice as much work.That way, all the environmental advantages come ‘for free’ and do not then become a matter of political debate and tension between ecologists and commercial interests - as is the situation in the USA and the UK, for example.

A GOOD SHOW FOR ALTERNATIVE-FUELLED SOLUTIONS
But is battery-electric power the only solution? No, not according to George Sandkuhler of Faun. George is one of the leading technical brains in our industry and has been looking at alternative power systems in waste and recycling vehicles many years - long before it became such a ‘sexy’ media topic.

He concedes that early projects involving dual-fuel or hybrid technologies seemed like a good idea at the time - we all thought so - but the thinking has moved on, since. The problem? Unlike a car or SUV, there is little space - or spare gross weight capacity - to build TWO power systems into each truck chassis.

Two different technologies also equal double the chance of downtime, so... The way that technicians like George Sandkuhler are now thinking, is that in future, a large city waste and recycling fleet might have to be made up of two, possibly three, different types of vehicle - each with a ‘tailored’ powertrain and fuel option to match a specific operational task.

We now have live telematics to help plan route efficiency, so reaching optimum utilisation is no longer an issue. So this could result in battery electrics for a ‘zero-emissions’ inner-city zone, CNG-fuelled, plug-in hybrids  (or chassis using either some form of diesel-electric system with a limited battery-only mode, or a diesel power unit with hydrogen injection technology) for suburban operations.

And finally? Conventional diesel powered units for rural and inter-urban operations where air quality is not an issue because traffic can move without being slowed by congestion.

While the production and distribution of hydrogen fuel on a wide scale is still some way off - and has safety and counter-terrorism issues that need to be addressed - many suggest it has considerable as-yet unrealised potential. And we’re not just talking refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) here, but also precinct and highway sweepers and other infrastructure maintenance vehicles.

Bottom line?Add some hydrogen-fuelled buses and taxies into the mix and that should make a dedicated refuelling plant viable.

So, if those were the main topics of debate, can we find any new products that reflect these lines of thinking? You bet!

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Belgium-based manufacturer Glutton also featured a zero-emissions battery electric sweeper to show at IFAT - the ‘Zen’ - which also featured a large, single-piece reverse-rake windscreen to cut glare.

Malcolm Bates

The clue is in the charge cable! Johnston Sweepers unveiled an all-electric truck-mounted sweeper at IFAT. Based on a DAF chassis, it featured the battery packs where the auxiliary engine is normally located.

Malcolm Bates

Enormous! Is this Europe’s largest truck-mounted vacuum sweeper? Might it not be overstating it to say, the largest on the planet? It’s certainly one of the most sophisticated. Built for infrastructure maintenance services operator Kelly Plant of Redditch, UK and based on a four-axle Mercedes chassis, the ‘Viajet 12’ is currently the largest vacuum sweeper constructed by Faun Viatec in Grimma, Germany. Water tank capacity is 8,700 litres. Unit was a star of the outdoor ‘VAK’ Live Demonstration display - a popular attraction that many other vehicle and plant industry exhibitions just don’t attempt.

Malcolm Bates

Hydraulic machinery manufacturer Liebherr recently launched a new revised telehandler range alongside existing materials handlers...

Malcolm Bates

All electric Rasco sweeper was another IFAT show product launch and very impressive it looked too. Cab and control systems are right up the with the best in the industry and the reverse rake front windscreen (windshield) offers a wide field of vision, without reflections caused by the sun, or streetlights. We should not be surprised at the quality - designers at Croatia-based Rasco also developed the ‘Muvo’ (now marketed in certain markets by Holder) and had already developed class-leading control systems for Rasco show clearing equipment.

Malcolm Bates

Volvo was clearly hedging its corporate bets by also displaying the new ‘FE CNG’ low-entry refuse collection vehicle chassis inside the halls. Compressed natural gas technology is now well-proven, but gas supply and the provision of fuelling infrastructure is still the limiting factor in many global markets.

Malcolm Bates

Electric Boschungs too. Boschung claims that just two hours of charging with the ‘Supercharger’ gives up to eight hours working time with the new zero-emissions compact sweeper option launched at IFAT.

Malcolm Bates

Pillar-less’ cab rear quarter window is one of the most practical design features of any small sweeper.

Malcolm Bates

Big or Bigger? Italian manufacturer Coseco (www.coseco.it) featured this impressive three-axle semi-trailer-based waste collection unit - which was actually launched in 2017. Leaving aside the claim to be one of the largest capacity units at IFAT, what really made it interesting is the capability of the compaction system to be powered by solar energy, enabling it to be used without the tractor unit, or outside power source. Yes, this is yet-another ‘alternative fuel’ option! The ‘K6 Solar’ semi-trailer also features a built-in container/bin weighing system.

Malcolm Bates

Innovative Netherlands-based refuse collection vehicle manufacturer Van Schijndel featured an interesting ‘midi-sized’ RCV based on a three-axle, mid-steer DAF ‘LF230’ chassis. The advantage? A compact 2.3metre overall width and a lower loading height - and lower overall height - compared to a traditional 26tonner and good weight distribution and payload.

Malcolm Bates

Kirchhoff group member Zoeller, also had an all-electric 21.5cubic metre capacity ‘Medium XLS-EVO’ RCV at IFAT. Based on a Volvo chassis, converted to 400volt lithium battery power by Futuricum in association with other partners, it was for Swiss operator Kundenfahrzeug Stadt Svedel (Service de Voirie de l’Entre-Deux-Lacs). It featured Zoeller ‘Rotary Hi-2406’ lifters. Similar units are already in service in the Swiss cities of Lusanne and Thun.

Malcolm Bates

Zoeller featured the latest low-entry Scania chassis, fitted with a Zoeller ‘Medium X4’ compaction equipment. A nearside kerbview window in the cab door is an interesting feature, but long front overhang could also be an issue - even with air suspension

Malcolm Bates

An all-Volvo factory-produced zero-emissions electric chassis was on display on the Faun stand after an initial launch and the promise to purchase (or initially on lease) of a fleet of electric Volvos, by the City of Hamburg.

Malcolm Bates

Here’s the newly-launched Norba ‘Flexi-4’ RCV as featured on the front cover of our last issue. Split main body/hopper unit and twin side-loading pods enables four waste streams to be collected at the same pass.

Malcolm Bates

This is what the new Faun Viajet ‘Bluepower’ hydrogen-fuelled truck-mounted sweeper will look like. As sweeper auxiliary engines are not required to meet Euro-6 legislation, the advantages of hydrogen fuel should be significant. It could be used as a fuel option for both auxiliary and automotive (truck) power units.

Malcolm Bates

Bigger Scarabs? Walter GmbH, the German market distributor of Scarab sweepers, exhibited this 18tonne gross, Euro-6, MAN ‘TGS 18.360’ chassis with high-specification ‘Magnum Plus Titanium’ hydrostatic vacuum sweeper with an 8.2cubic metre capacity hopper, 4100 litre water tank, rear collection system and additional kerb brushes for operator Ernst Stadlereinigung of Gunzenhausen. The water in the photograph was from a rain shower, not from the high pressure streetwash unit!

Malcolm Bates