Electrification of compact construction equipment is a trend that has been growing for years. About a dozen construction equipment manufacturers have electric compact machines from excavators to loaders to trucks. However, in each case, the electric model has a diesel alternate, so contractors could always choose diesel. This will soon change.
Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) will stop making certain diesel models and only manufacture electric versions in the near future. Phase-out will be based on market demand and regulatory requirements. Exact details will be communicated at a later stage, states the company.
“All new development for corresponding diesel models will be stopped, but current diesel engine models will continue to be manufactured along with the new electric models. Volvo Construction Equipment is the first major manufacturer to commit to moving a product range over to electric,” says Scott Young, director of electromobility with Volvo CE. “This move accelerates Volvo CE’s electromobility plans by 12 to 24 months to put us closer to our ambition of becoming the industry leader in electromobility.”
Volvo CE currently offers six diesel engine compact wheel loaders (ranging from the L20H TO L50H) and 11 diesel engine compact excavators (ECR18 E TO ECR88D) in North America. Details on exactly which electric models will be available in North America are still forthcoming.
“Customer pilots of the electric models will be launched in 2019 and the first models will be available in certain markets by mid-2020,” says Young. “While electric is the future, diesel compact wheel loaders and compact excavators remain in demand.”
The new machines will be Volvo CE’s first commercially available fully electric models. Volvo Concept Labs has successfully tested electric prototypes, including the HX2 autonomous, battery-electric load carrier, and hybrid models, such as the EX1, 70-ton dual-powered, cable-connected excavator and the LX1 electric hybrid wheel loader.
The new electric compact wheel loaders and compact excavators will be battery charged. Each comes equipped with on-board chargers that plug into a residential-style plug, just like a passenger car. However, an off-board charger, which requires a three-phase outlet, is available for quicker charging.
The machines will then operate between three and eight hours, depending on the application and the severity of the duty cycle.
“Volvo compact wheel loaders and compact excavators in this range will be fully electric, but as compared to our prototype EX1 model, for instance, they will have hydraulics rather than electric motors and actuators,” says Young.
The machines are purposely designed with 48-Volt architectures to eliminate the special safety requirements needed for high-voltage equipment.
The benefits of going electric go beyond a cleaner environment. Volvo CE partnered with Skanska, a world-leading project development and construction group, to run an all-electric quarry.
Volvo CE declared the 10-week experiment resulted not only in a 98 per cent carbon emission reduction, but also a 70 per cent reduction in energy costs and 40 per cent reduction in operator costs.
This is part of Volvo CE’s long-term ambition to have zero incidents, zero unplanned stops, zero emissions and be 10 times more efficient (measured as work undertaken compared to energy used, but also total cost of ownership, downtime, and other variables).
“We believe the compact product segment will keep growing and electric machines represent the future,” says Young.