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Maine's first electric trash truck takes to Portland streets

Portland’s new, super quiet trash truck will start making its rounds through city neighborhoods soon
Peter McGuire
Portland’s new, super quiet trash truck will start making its rounds through city neighborhoods soon

A new electric trash truck, the first of its kind in Maine, is about to hit the streets of Portland.

The super quiet Mack LRE Packer truck cost almost $684,000, nearly twice the cost of a diesel model. But the city said it will be cheaper to run because of lower maintenance and fuel costs.

The vehicle was mostly paid for with grant funding, according to city officials. It is expected to soon start collecting household trash throughout Portland neighborhoods.

Some residents might not immediately notice the change. At first glance the truck is almost indistinguishable from fossil-fuel powered models. But the difference becomes immediate as soon as the truck starts going.

Instead of the loud engine noise residents might associate with an early morning trash pickup, they’ll hear just a low hum as the truck goes about its work.

At an event debuting the vehicle Monday, Mayor Mark Dion joked that without the commotion, he might miss his window to get trash on the curb.

“Normally, on my own home street sometimes I hear the truck turning the corner, making its first pickups. That’s usually my signal to rush out,” Dion said. “I don’t know if I'll do it with this one, I’ll have to be more conscious of my time.”

Portland has a goal of using 100% clean energy for operations by 2040. So far, it’s switched over some cars and pickup trucks to zero-emissions versions, but the trash truck is its first heavy duty electric vehicle, Dion said. He wants the move to be an example for nearby towns and cities.

“I hope that as a city this models what other communities in metro Portland should look at when they are making decisions to purchase new vehicles for their fleet,” Dion said. “Electricity is the energy of the future and this city stands ready to make that commitment on behalf of its citizens in terms of providing a cleaner environment and making Portland tangibly environmentally safe and a good steward of our resources."

Portland will hold a naming contest for the new truck through June 30. The public will then have a chance to vote on the top five names for the vehicle.

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