Is electric equipment the answer for your construction business?

By Lindsey Anderson and Jenny LescohierOctober 27, 2021

Volvo CE announced its ECR25 electric excavator and L25 electric wheel loader will be commercially available in the U.S. this year

Electrically powered equipment is certainly having a moment when it comes to recent product introductions from leading equipment manufacturers, but will it translate well into real-world applications right now?

Questions remain, but it makes sense to take a look at current offerings as most indications suggest electric machines are only going to become more common on North American job sites and might be a requirement when seeking some government bids. 

Across the globe, job sites are seeing an increase in government regulations for low emissions and quiet zones where internal combustion engines are either limited in use or completely banned. In response, manufacturers are designing and producing electrically powered machines to meet these requirements.

“The move to electric power is a transition that is gathering speed,” says Åsa Alström, head of strategic communications at Volvo CE. “Both Volvo Group and Volvo CE have a really strong commitment to... reducing carbon emissions. We also see a strong ambition in our customers’ roadmaps towards the reduction of their emissions. Increasing emission incentives and zero-emission targets coming into play in recent years have had a marked effect on the increase in electric equipment.

“Governments, both on a local and country-wide level, are adopting clean air policies, so if contractors want to win these bids, they need to prove that they’re working with equipment with reduced or zero emissions,” Alström says.

Making a commitment to electric construction equipment 

For contractors who consider the move to electric machines, there are practical challenges to face.

“Customers must have an adequate charging infrastructure in place to ensure machines operate as planned,” explains Alström. “While a 110-volt set up will charge the units over time, a 240-volt setup is necessary to charge the machines quickly.

“For remote job sites, a solar array may be necessary to provide power when an electric grid isn’t an option. It is also vital to continue developing our battery offering – an area which Volvo CE is already focusing on with the intention of bringing the benefits of improved battery capacity to our customers.”

Volvo CE has worked over the last few years to introduce battery-electric machines, hydrogen fuel-cell-powered equipment and improved internal combustion engine solutions. The company already has the ECR25 Electric excavator and L25 Electric wheeled loader available to the market, and the company is currently in a customer pilot phase with its 22-ton EC230 Electric mid-size excavator and the EC55 electric excavator.

Recent reports state electric models can do everything their diesel-powered brethren can.

“Customers can expect further electric solutions to be commercialized in the coming months and years,” Alström says. “As part of our firm commitment to shift towards electric, Volvo CE has also set a target for 35% of all vehicles sold to be electric by 2030.”

Access and electric equipment

While larger electric equipment is being engineered and debuted, one sector has been producing electric-only machines since the mid-1990s: the access

JLG’s new hydraulics-free, all-electric DaVinci AE1932 scissor lift is an industry first

industry.

JLG Industries is one such pioneer. In 1994, the world’s largest manufacturer of access equipment debuted the first, all-electric boom lift, shortly followed by the only fuel-cell powered boom lift in 1999, and in 2014, JLG introduced the first true hybrid diesel/electric boom lift, the H340AJ.

“The aerial equipment market has changed in the last few years,” says Jennifer Stiansen, director of marketing, JLG. “In the past, equipment owners wanted mobile elevating work platforms powered by the biggest, most powerful internal combustion engine that an individual machine model could support. In general, the more power a machine delivered, the better.

“But today, that has changed. More stringent Tier IV Final engine regulations have made engines more complex, including the addition of a DPF in most models over 74 hp. Combined with stricter environmental standards around the world, we are seeing a shift towards purchasing machines with just enough engine power and/or a switch to hybrid engine/battery or exclusive battery power where feasible.”

Reducing costs through electric equipment

JLG says it is seeing an increase in demand for greener and more versatile machines not only for their environmental benefits, but also for the desire to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).

All-electric scissor lifts, for example, will lower overall TCO by 30-40%, the company says, a figure arrived at by reviewing thousands of rental company maintenance records and Rouse resale values compared to the expected parts replacements and operational benefits that equipment models like the JLG DaVinci lift bring.

Additionally, Tier V engine regulations in Europe will further advance the cost of engine technology at a time when lithium-ion battery costs are coming down.

Lithium-ion battery technology

In early February, JLG’s parent company Oshkosh Corporation invested $25 million into Microvast, a developer of lithium-ion battery technology for commercial and specialty electric vehicles. The announcement was made more than a year after JLG formally debuted its hydraulics-free, all-electric DaVinci AE1932 scissor lift.

The DaVinci is powered by a single 24-volt lithium-ion battery that can be fully charged in 3.5 hours.

The DaVinci is powered by a single 24-volt lithium-ion battery that can be fully charged in 3.5 hours. If the battery runs out of juice and more power is needed, it can be charged for five minutes to get 100 feet of drive and enough torque for loading. JLG says the battery has a ten year lifespan and requires no maintenance.

“We believe that the market will continue to see momentum shift towards electrified products in environmentally sensitive and indoor applications,” Stiansen says. “We also believe that more advanced solutions are on the horizon.

“Again, take our DaVinci scissor lift. It’s the first fully electric scissor on the market. The lift, steer and drive systems are all fully electric, with zero hydraulics and every component optimized to either conserve energy or to deliver energy back to the battery for optimal performance on a single charge. Electrifying parts of these machines is nothing new — but utilizing all-electric components with a lithium-ion battery is new. It is a game changer for the industry.”

Electric excavator from SDLG

SDLG’s electric excavator is suited to work in confined spaces and urban environments and has faster acceleration at low speeds than its diesel counterpart

China-based OEM Shandong Lingong, also known as SDLG, debuted a range of energy-saving products in early August, including the E660F-Ex electric excavator, the L968H-HST hydrostatic wheel loader and E6500F-HB hybrid excavator.

SDLG says it is committed to producing ‘greener’ construction equipment.

The E660F-Ex pure electric excavator uses advanced lithium battery technology. It can achieve zero emissions, reduce noise levels by 12 decibels, and reduce operating costs by a third compared with traditional products, according to the company.

“Compared with diesel-driven products, pure electric products have lower noise and lower vibration, which means the driver’s driving experience will be qualitatively improved,” said Wang Xiaohui, general manager of SDLG Import and Export Company.

Wang Xiaohui adds that the electric excavator was more suited to work in confined spaces and urban environments and also had faster acceleration at low speeds than its diesel counterpart.

During the 2020 Shanghai Bauma Exhibition, the fourth-generation energy-saving product, L968H-HST hydrostatic wheel loader and E6500F-HB hybrid excavator were first unveiled.

“These two products represent the two technical solutions of SDLG’s fourth-generation energy-saving technology,” added Chi Feng, chief engineer of SDLG.

Electric tandem roller now available

In July, Dynapac developed a “first of its kind” electric tandem roller, as part of its new Z.ERA initiative to eliminate emissions. The CC900 e electric double-drum vibratory roller, which is currently being field-tested, weighs 1.6 tonnes and has an operating drum width of between 0.8 and 1.0 metres.

Fredrik Åkesson, product portfolio manager for rollers at Dynapac, says the company has seen electric and battery power being applied to mini excavators,

Dynapac CC900 electric tandem roller

skid steer loaders, access equipment and site dumpers. He adds that they have been widely welcomed by forward-thinking rental fleet operators and contractors.

Åkesson says, “With the development of the CC900 e, Dynapac has taken a massive technological step. We are proud to be the first realizing this from an ‘exhibition concept’ machine into something we now have on the field. That step sets our customers on the path to a zero emissions future.

“The only thing missing has been an electric-powered tandem vibratory roller to run alongside these other zero emissions machines,” Åkesson says.

The company, which is soon to begin field-testing its new CC1000 electric vibratory roller with input from rental company Loxam, said the design of the CC900 e roller is based on the diesel-powered Dynapac CC900 series equipment range.

While the CC900 e tandem roller is not anticipated to be available on the construction equipment market until 2022, according to Dynapac it will initially be produced in a limited number.

In development for over year, work on the electric-powered model was done in collaboration with construction contractor Skanska.

Åkesson said, “Co-operation is the key to developing a successful product and direct user input is incredibly valuable to a project of this kind. From the user perspective, it is equally important to be acquainted with the equipment at an early stage.

“Even though the compaction performance is unchanged, there are still small changes to work procedures when transitioning from traditional fossil fuel to electric power. The earlier operators can be exposed to those changes, the easier it will be to adapt to the new equipment.”

One thing is certain, your favorite brands of construction equipment - not to mention American automakers - are putting effort toward electric options for a reason, and it’s not just about racing to the finish line to be the first out with electric models. Electrically powered equipment has benefits to offer contractors interested in lowering fuel, as well as maintenance and other ownership costs, not to mention positioning themselves to win upcoming government bids. 

MORE ARTICLES FROM CONEXPO-CON/AGG 365 NEWS
Doosan now makes dozers, and mini excavators too
Doosan Infracore has previewed a slew of new products that will hit the construction market in 2022, including not only its first dozer but also a new line of mini excavators and more
One giant leap: Komatsu develops construction equipment for use on the moon
Komatsu will create and operate a hydraulic excavator in cyberspace, using digital twin technology, and compare its movements with actual equipment on Earth 
Expert Q&A: What the newly passed infrastructure bill really means to contractors
Kate Fox Wood, government relations at AEM, gives straight answers to the questions we’re all asking about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)