Net-Zero Arrives: e-Revolution Picks Up Steam

September 23, 2021

Long before President Joe Biden made a nationwide goal of 100 percent clean energy and net-zero emissions by the year 2050, construction equipment manufacturers were doing their part. So were project owners, specifying eco-friendly machines on job sites. Contractors stocked electric and hybrid machines and hired operators to run them.

But Biden’s edict aside, the industry is driving closer toward mainstreaming of zero-emission construction equipment.

In fact, The Bellona Foundation, a global non-profit fighting climate challenges, has found that there is currently an electric alternative for at least seven different types of construction machines.

Bellona started tracking the manufacture of zero-emission construction equipment, establishing a database that “combines all the available electric construction machinery and equipment that can help eliminate emissions and reduce noise from the job site.”

Getting the Word Out

The organization has found that at least 18 manufacturers offer equipment and components to support the electric revolution. These companies are cranking out eco-friendly excavators, wheel loaders, dumpers, vibratory plates, slew and track drives and cement mixers. And that’s just what Bellona has logged. Other manufacturers are joining the cause.

“Even though there is already a good selection of products available on the market today, it seems like potential buyers are not informed well enough about the availability and the specifications of electric construction equipment,” the organization said.

Bellona added that due to these advances in the market sector, contractors now have the opportunity to make an active choice for construction equipment that neither harms the surrounding environment nor the local community while still doing the job. “For the market there is only room to grow,” the organization said.

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) wants its members to stay informed as they grow with the market. The newly-formed Engine Emissions Strategy Task Force (EESTF) has a goal of helping guide AEM’s efforts to keep members and the off-road industry up to date on equipment emissions regulations.

EESTF will work to educate professionals on potential future emissions requirements, changes to power trains, the impact on equipment design and cost implications, according to AEM. Another potential goal is to help others understand that a different technology solution for different applications and machine types may exist.

Alternative Technology Solutions

Different eco-friendly technology solutions have existed and continue to launch each year. Electric and hybrid small machines have been used in indoor construction and maintenance for years now. But, as Volvo put it, “quietly in the background, electric vehicles have been heading off the road and onto construction job sites.”

Heavy equipment manufacturers were out in front, putting lower-emission engines in their machines over the years, adding features that reduce fuel consumption and developing telematics systems to help operators reduce fuel usage and idling time.

But heavy equipment like excavators and wheel loaders are just now becoming available in electric options, ushering in a new era of electromobility.

“Electric machines are going to build the roads, bridges and utility lines of tomorrow, and they’re going to do it without producing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ray Gallant, head of product management and productivity of Volvo CE. “There are already early adopters successfully using electric construction equipment, and they’re finding that they can lower their carbon footprint while keeping their performance high.”

He believes the industry has come a long way in reducing emissions, and there is still room for improvement but “we’re at a point where most of the benefits have been realized. New technologies like electric machines are the next frontier in emissions reductions.”

The challenges in bringing electromobility to the construction industry include building out the charging infrastructure. Manufacturers are finding work-arounds.

Volvo’s electric excavator and wheel loader, coming to the United States this year, can be charged in a 220/240-volt electrical socket. They also are available with fast-charge options, getting them close to peak charge in a couple of hours. The company believes that with fast-moving development the industry will soon see options such as mobile power banks for charging in remote locations.

“Our customers will not notice a difference between the power and performance of the electric machines versus the diesel models,” said Lars Arnold, Volvo CE electromobility product manager. “In fact, they’ll enjoy several benefits with the electric machines thanks to the lack of a diesel engine, including lower noise, less machine vibration and no exhaust fumes.”

Power and performance are being generated through natural gas and hydrogen cell technology, both of which are gaining ground in the zero-emission front.

Read more here.

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