The appeal of electric construction equipment is increasing as more and more companies plan to supplement their existing fleets. However, several contractors are hesitant—and with good reason. Electric construction equipment is new to the industry, so there is much that is unknown.
Contractors are asking questions such as: How long do the batteries stay charged? How long do they take to recharge? What is the life expectancy of the batteries? Does the equipment perform as well as conventional equipment?
While electric construction equipment makes sense for many today, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered before investing.
One of the big concerns, of course, is keeping the batteries charged. You’ll need to have charging infrastructure in place for charging the equipment without disrupting the workflow.
Despite the unknown, there have been some contractors who are anxiously anticipating the availability of the equipment so they can use them and get to understand exactly how electric construction equipment will play a role in expanding their businesses.
The ECR25 Electric (a compact excavator) will ship to customers in January of 2022, while the L25 Electric (compact wheel loader) will be available in North America later in the year.
The construction equipment company Volvo CE is the first to commercialize electric machines at the larger end of the compact range of sizes. A year-long Volvo CE pilot program has shown that electric construction machines can perform as well as diesel machines, and have several advantages over conventional equipment.
“The California pilot project supports what we’ve seen on job sites in Europe and elsewhere—our battery-electric compact excavator and compact wheel loader are viable alternatives to diesel equipment for construction fleets that want to reduce their carbon footprints,” says Melker Jernberg, president of Volvo CE. “Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. We all have an important role to play and, by working together and collaborating, we can reduce the amount of harmful emissions that are entering the atmosphere.”
The electric machines do not only eliminate carbon dioxide emissions and reduce the amount of diesel fuel consumed on the job, but they also have other advantages that are not immediately obvious.
A major advantage is that electric construction equipment can be used indoors. Equipment that is diesel-fueled, however, can’t be used indoors.
Another big advantage is how quiet they are. Test results showed that there is a 90% decrease in noise levels. This reduces operator fatigue, which is a huge benefit. Electric machines performed equally well as similar diesel-powered machines according to the testing program.
In addition, those who used the electric machines during the test period reported reduced maintenance needs since they do not require engine oil, oil filters, or diesel particulate filters. There is also no need for a diesel exhaust fluid tank.
The following are two early adopters that have been successful in operating electrical construction equipment; namely, the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator and the Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader.
In Yucca Valley, California, Jacques Marais is the head of Baltic Sands, Inc. There, Jacques Marais specializes in developing luxury off-grid properties in an environmentally sensitive manner and in the construction of luxury homes. His life has been spent with machines, and electric power has always intrigued him.
“I’ve always been curious and quite anxious to see where this is going and how we can apply electromobility to our business,” he says. “I can’t emphasize enough how excited we are to be in this position right now. I just have a sincere belief that this is the future.”
Jacques and his crew have piloted two Volvo electric excavators in Southern California, and he hopes that this is only the beginning.
“For Baltic Sands, this is where ideology meets reality,” he says. “Right now, we’re seriously pursuing the idea of how we integrate these units into a business that delivers the type of work that we do and has traditionally depended on diesel-powered equipment. Our ambition is to be one of the first to try it out.”
When Jacques Marais was asked if he had any advice for contractors who may be skeptical about electric construction equipment, he answered:
“Investigate what your operation is—really scrutinize what your existing units are doing on an average type of job,” he said. “It’s important to examine how many hours ‘x’ unit is being used to know the amount of time it’s under full utility during an eight-hour work cycle. That will determine whether or not electric machines can be well integrated into your fleet, without having a negative effect on your total productivity or total timeframe for your budgets.”
Find out how Baltic Sands Inc. utilizes Volvo compact electric equipment to develop sites in Southern California.
Volvo electric machines are emission-free and noise-free, thus making them ideal for cities such as Zurich, where low emissions and low noise levels are becoming essential requirements for construction sites.
For instance, Eberhard, a company that specializes in civil engineering, demolition, recycling, and environmental remediation, is using the Volvo L25 electric compact wheel loader to demonstrate its value. Eberhard has always taken steps to protect the environment, such as recycling concrete rubble in the 1980s and building the first soil wash plant for contaminated soil in the 1990s.
As of today, the company is developing an environmentally friendly concrete called zirkulit® that will be used to process mixed demolition material.
“We’re investing a lot to make our construction sites as environmentally friendly as possible,” says Silvan Eberhard, head of logistics. “We’re supporters of the circular economy, and sustainability is part of our culture.”
The Volvo ECR25 Meier Abbruch and Tiefbau AG wheel loader are being used on a landfill site, as well as to clear roads and for small-scale material handling. There are three main advantages of this product: low emissions, silence, and minimal vibration. Construction sites in downtown Zurich, as well as other cities with high demands for low emission and silence, will be able to use the L25 in the near future.
ECR25 excavators are also in use at B. MEIER ABBRUCH + TIEFBAU AG, an engineering and demolition company. The excavators are used to prepare sites for construction work.
“The responsibility for looking after our environment falls on everyone,” says Bruno Meier, CEO and owner. “As our organization has grown, we wanted to look at alternative machines that don’t rely on diesel. The ECR25 is our first foray into the world of electric machines.”
This compact electric excavator is used in built-up areas and complex spaces, such as nearby hospitals and schools, where its noiseless and emission-free operation is appreciated.