Construction equipment manufacturers are embracing electric power. Most every major construction equipment manufacturer has electric vehicles (EV) in their current production catalogue.
Some of this is driven by corporate decisions to decrease the negative impact when it comes to climate change and pollution, and some of it is driven to help their customers be more productive and profitable.
Electric vehicles do not produce any local emissions, so you can run them indoors where they replace manual labour, thereby increasing productivity. They also produce less noise, so they can be used in noise-restricted environments. And, since they can be used in more applications, owners of electric-powered construction equipment will be able to work on more and more diverse projects.
Casper Company, a concrete and demolition contractor based out of Spring Valley, California, owns six EV, a fleet of Sherpa stand-behind skid steer loaders and Brokk radio remote control demolition machines, and for three months they trialled the Volvo L25 Electric compact wheel loader and the Volvo ECR25 Electric compact excavator.
The L25 Electric features the newest Li-ion battery 48V technology with 39kWh capacity. It is powerful. It provides a peak electric motor driveline of 48hp and a peak electric motor working hydraulics of 43hp. It features a breakout force of 12,252lbs and a maximum travel speed of 10mph.
The ECR25 Electric is a zero-tail swing machine that features a battery voltage of 48V, a battery capacity of 20kWh, and a peak electric motor of 24hp. It has a maximum dump height of 9ft, 8in (with the optional long arm) and a maximum dig depth of 9ft, 1in (with the optional long arm), and features a breakout force of 5,020lbft.
"We used them in pretty much every application we regularly perform," said, Casper Company Equipment Demolition superintendent, Darrell Merritt. "We used them in excavation applications, fitted the excavator with a hydraulic breaker, cutting out concrete with the loader, truck loading, grading, underground work to all things demolition."
There are only a few differences between owning and operating the electric version of these machines compared to their diesel counterparts. Both the electric and diesel versions can perform all the same functions and run all the same attachments without seeing a change in performance. However, the first major difference is the recharging schedule of these vehicles, which can limit how much work they perform and impact your schedule.
"We got five to six hours of use out of the machines," said Merritt. "And, every night we transferred them back to our yard for charging."
The L25 has an indicative runtime of up to eight hours (depending on application) and an off-board charging time of about two hours. The ECR25 has an indicative runtime of up to four hours (depending on application) and can reach 80 per cent of a full charge in 50 minutes (both using the 400 VAC 32A charging system).
"Toward the end of the three-month trial, we hooked up a tow-behind battery, and then got eight hours of work from them," Merritt said.
The on-board charging time for the L25 is about 12 hours and the on-board charging time for the ECR25 is about five hours (both with the 230 VAC 16A recharging system).
The second major difference when owning EVs is the decreased maintenance.
"We experienced no maintenance issues during the trial," said Merritt.
An electric engine has less components than a diesel engine, which means there is less to go wrong and less that needs servicing. There are no oil changes, no filter changes and no diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). Also, operators will not accidentally put diesel in the DEF tank or DEF in the diesel tank since there are no tanks.
Electric energy is clean in two ways; it is better for the environment (depending on the energy source) and it is always free from contamination.
With EVs, you do not need to place orders for and then store large quantities of fuel for your fleet. And, you do not have to worry about that fuel getting contaminated or ensuring it stays at the correct temperature. Electric energy is always free from contamination, and it will never be wasted due to spoilage.
Since a lot of EVs can work indoors and other spaces that diesel machines cannot work, these machines are often replacing manual labour.
"Our jobs demand EV," said Merritt. "We work underground and inside buildings that are occupied, so diesel machines are not an option. In these cases, we often work by hand, but there is a huge gain in productivity by using an EV. An application that takes one hour by hand, we can complete in just 20 minutes with an electric machine."
The Volvo L25 Electric and ECR25 Electric were trialled by not just Casper Company, but three other companies in various applications in different climates across the US; the machines are expected to be available next year.
"Casper wants to be a leader in the future of EV and when the Volvo electric models become available, we look forward to being the first to get one," concluded Merritt.
John Somers is vice president of Construction Equipment and Utility Sector with the North America-based international trade group AEM (Association of Equipment Manufacturers), which represents off-road equipment manufacturers and suppliers