An all-electric utility truck. (MidAmerican Energy photo)

MidAmerican Energy says it is the first utility company in the state to try all-electric utility trucks.

Company spokesman, Geoff Greenwood, says these are the large bucket trucks that allow them to get up in the air and work on power lines. “These trucks have two different batteries on board — one powers the vehicle and allows it to travel — and then the other battery allows the crews to do their work when they get to that location,” Greenwood says.

He says the Des Moines-based company has purchased three trucks and they to put them through their paces in the field before buying more. “Our goal is to see how they work, see how they operate in real-world conditions, all kinds of weather conditions, all kinds of terrain. And let’s test them out, let’s see how they work,” Greenwood says. “And if they work as well as we expect them to work, then we’ll be making a lot more purchases.”

Greenwood says the trucks have a 135-mile range. “We’ve assigned one to Sioux City, we’ve assigned one to the Des Moines area, and then we’ve assigned one to the Quad Cities. So we’ve got them spread across the state,” he says. “We are putting them to work as we speak, and our crews will run them through everything that they do day in and day out and see how they work.”

He says they have fast chargers at their facilities where the trucks and be charged overnight. Greenwood says they don’t make much noise — which will make it easier for crews to communicate in the field. He says they will put out no emissions, which allows crews train on them using an indoor facility. Greenwood says the cost of operating the trucks is something they are also reviewing.

“An electric vehicle is more expensive, however, we’re not paying for fuel. And there’s a lot of maintenance that you would have to do using a combustion engine that you don’t need for an electric vehicle,” he says. “For example, no oil change, these don’t need oil changes. So they are more expensive up-front, but we’re eager to see what kind of maintenance savings we get as we progress.” Greenwood says the trucks are charging up with renewable energy from their own wind farms — which brings things full circle.

Radio Iowa