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Inside Innovation: New electric pickups could jolt adoption of carbon-free machinery

John Bleasby
Inside Innovation: New electric pickups could jolt adoption of carbon-free machinery

A pickup truck that goes from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. That’s certain to grab the attention of the construction industry. The irresistible desire to combine comfort and performance with outright muscle and utility? Ford’s latest announcements about its new electric pickup truck bring those factors to new heights.

The Ford F-150 Lightning is not the only truck to claim remarkable acceleration from a standing start. The Dodge Ram TRX with its supercharged 702hp gas engine can match it. But the Ford Lightning is electric, and that’s a whole new ball game.

“This sucker’s quick,” said U.S. President Joe Biden after a test drive.

General Motors is hopeful its all-electric Chevy Silverado will get some attention too with its boast of a 400 mile range, thanks to new battery pack technology. However, GM has yet to release a production date. Ford is faster out of the gate in that regard too, claiming the Lightning will be available in Canada next spring. And if U.S. guidance is any indication, the price will be thousands less than some of its fossil-fuelled competitors.

Acceleration bragging rights aside, the new electric pickups also have a lot to say about load and towing capacity. Taken together, their top performance, low maintenance and reasonable price are helping to accelerate the acceptance and adoption of electric machinery across construction sites everywhere.

In the U.K., industry leaders are setting a good example. Construction and engineering giant, Sir Robert McAlpine, has set a corporate target to be net zero by 2025 in terms of energy usage directly under its own control. The British government has further incentivized the transition to electric by banning the use of red diesel on construction sites starting April 2022.

However, not all equipment use is under the direct control of the general contractor. Specialty trades are usually responsible for their own equipment. In response, the British building publication Building.co reports that U.K. consultancy and construction firm Mace, “has changed its standard contract with specialists to promote electric or hybrid-powered equipment.”

It’s worth noting the leadership-by-example being demonstrated by major construction companies is independent of government incentives. Simon Richards, Sir Robert McAlpine’s head of sustainability, told Building.co that industry leaders can set a new direction with their own initiatives.

“We should come up with a united voice for the supply chain as to what we think we need to do to reduce carbon emissions,” he says. “In doing that, there will be more confidence in the supply chain to change their business models.”

Although there are weekly electric machinery announcements from major equipment manufacturers, the choice does not have to be all-electric or nothing. Diesel-electric hybrids are available. Even the carbon emissions of existing machines can be reduced by switching to bio-diesel.

But until hydrogen-powered vehicles and machinery are available at reasonable costs at some point in the future, the near-term solution is electric. To justify the capital cost premium over diesel, largely due to high battery costs, manufacturers like Volvo point to electric power’s reduced maintenance requirements due to fewer moving parts. Mind you, service technicians will need specialized training since they will be dealing with high voltage components instead of fuel lines.

Carbon reduction, reduced maintenance and “instant-on” load performance are the immediate tangible gains from the conversion to electric machinery. Another benefit that reveals itself over time is a reported reduction in operator fatigue as a result of less machine noise and vibration and the ability to communicate with others nearby at normal speaking volumes. 

And as the final kicker, the successful swing over to electric vehicles and machinery may hinge on the swagger of driving an electric pickup that leaves the others in the dust when heading home from the site.

And speaking of home, Ford also claims with its Intelligent Backup Power and 80-amp Ford Charge Station Pro, the F-150 Lightning can deliver up to 9.6 KWh, enough to power an average house during a three-day blackout.

 

John Bleasby is a Coldwater, Ont.-based freelance writer. Send comments and Inside Innovation column ideas to editor@dailycommercialnews.com.

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