Like semi trucks, construction equipment is all about dollars and business sense. While there are certainly entities who will want to stick with the equipment they’ve been using for decades, they won’t be able to compete in the market if the competition adopts better and/or cheaper equipment. If staying with older, polluting equipment hurts the bottom line, that won’t go on for long. It should be no surprise, then, that even established players in the construction equipment industry are going electric.
Such is the case with CASE. “CASE built the very first factory-integrated backhoe loader in 1957 and has been at the forefront of backhoe innovation,” says Leandro Lecheta, head of construction equipment — North America, CNH Industrial. “The 580 EV is a significant step forward in our commitment to sustainability, the evolution of earthmoving equipment and truly practical innovation that drives real savings and competitive advantages for backhoe owners.”
A backhoe-loader is a very versatile piece of equipment. Not only can it move a lot of dirt around on the surface, but it can dig deep holes, trenches, and many other things. Backhoe-loaders are the right arm of many utilities, construction companies, departments of transportation, and independent owner-operators who come in for the odd job for an entity that just needs one or two things done. If you’re reading this, the data probably went through dozens of fiber and copper lines that were put in and/or repaired by someone using one.
The cost savings are obvious. Instead of having a diesel engine constantly run to move the backhoe and run the hydraulic pumps to operate the buckets and arms, the machine can use little to no energy when it’s not moving, and respond quickly when you move the controls. Instead of paying for fuel, diesel maintenance, etc., you can just charge it.
“The backhoe loader is perfectly suited for electrification as the varied use cycles, from heavy to light work, provide an excellent opportunity to convert wasted diesel engine hours into zero consumption battery time — yet provide the operator with instantaneous torque response when needed,” says Eric Zieser, director — global compact equipment product line, CASE. “At low idle a diesel engine has reduced torque and requires time for the engine to ramp up to meet the load demands. Electric motors, on the other hand, have instantaneous torque and peak torque available at every operating speed.”
Case says the fuel and maintenance costs are reduced by 90%, and that most users will recoup the extra costs within 5 years of operation. Given that companies tend to run these for decades, there’s a lot of savings to keep stacking up every year after that. Economically, it’s a no-brainer to buy the EV backhoe compared to the diesel version, assuming you are able to charge it up at night.
The 580 EV uses a 480-volt, 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged by any 220-volt or three-phase connection. While everyone’s work requirements will differ, CASE figures it will last for an 8-hour workday for almost anyone. The battery powers both motors for moving the backhoe-loader and motors that keep the hydraulic system pressurized. The result is that it has the same or better forces compared to diesel when operating both systems simultaneously.
The savings are even greater for many utilities. Some utilities generate their own electricity, so they can effectively operate the backhoes at cost instead of paying what everyone else pays to charge it up. Even for other users, it’s possible to get advantages in the bidding process when a governmental entity prefers zero emission equipment be used, or via tax credits.
“The 580 EV performs like a CASE backhoe — matching the power and performance expected from CASE with the advantages of an electrified machine,” says Zieser. “Operators will experience the same digging, lifting and craning performance achieved in a diesel-powered machine in a quieter, emissions-free work area. That’s the ultimate goal of our sustainability efforts — improve the world around us, make equipment more sustainable, and to do so while finding new ways to improve productivity and the experience of the people who use the equipment.”
Two New York Utilities Just Took Delivery
Given all the advantages, it should surprise nobody that CASE quickly sold its first two backhoes. New York State Gas & Electric (NYSEG) and Rochester Gas & Electric (RG&E), AVANGRID, Inc. subsidiaries will debut its first electric backhoe this week at a special event in New York, and National Grid took delivery of its first electric backhoe earlier this year.
“At NYSEG and RG&E, the driving force behind all of our decisions is to put our customers first and care for the communities we serve,” said CEO Carl Taylor. “As an energy provider, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment and build a more sustainable future for our communities. The addition of this first-of-its-kind backhoe into our fleet will help us meet sustainability goals and benefit the communities we serve by providing a cleaner work environment in the form of emissions and noise reduction. It’s equipment like this that will drive our fleets, businesses and communities into the future.”
The utilities don’t tend to leave any of their equipment out at night, storing it in secure yards when not in use. This gives them the perfect opportunity to charge up, and the same will be true for many, many other utilities. They’ll also benefit from the above-mentioned savings, as they generate their own electricity or buy it wholesale. Showing the community that they care about the environment is great, but they can do this without having to run a less profitable business.
“National Grid and NYSEG and RG&E are at the forefront of living the clean energy promise in their communities, and their use of electrically powered equipment like the CASE 580 EV shows that fleets can be clean while also delivering where it counts in the field,” says Leandro Lecheta, head of construction — North America, CASE Construction Equipment. “We share that commitment to develop and stand behind equipment that meets sustainability and productivity goals, while also being good for the communities we work in together.”
Featured image provided by CASE.