Volvo Construction Equipment (no relation to Volvo Cars) is working to create construction equipment and has developed two battery-powered construction vehicles — the ECR25 electric compact excavator and the L25 electric compact wheel loader. Both have been put through a year of trials in Southern California and both have received enthusiastic praise from those who used them at various job sites.
“Our customer’s response to these machines validates that there is not only a desire for these types of machines in North America but a pull in many markets,” says Stephen Roy, president of North American operations for Volvo CE. “This just adds further momentum to the Volvo vision of offering machines that align with science based climate targets and our overall commitment to decarbonization.”
Deliveries to customers of the ECR25 Electric are expected to begin in January of next year, with the L25 Electric becoming available throughout North America later in 2022. Volvo CE is the first construction equipment company to commercialize dedicated electric machines at the larger end of the compact size range. In a press release, the company says the year-long pilot program confirms Volvo CE electric construction equipment matches the performance of diesel machines in the same class and offers significant benefits 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.”
Not only do the electric machines eliminate carbon emissions and reduce the amount of diesel fuel consumed on the job, they have other advantages that may not be apparent at first blush. One, they can be operated indoors where diesel-powered equipment cannot. Second, they are significantly quieter, which contributes to lower operator fatigue and a safer work environment. The tests revealed the Volvo machines lowered exterior noise levels by 9 decibels, which represents a 90% decrease in sound levels.
The testing program confirmed that the electric machines matched the job performance of similar diesel-powered machinery. There also was positive feedback from those who used them during the testing period about the decreased maintenance needs of the electric machines, which don’t require engine oil, oil filters, or diesel particulate filters. The need for a diesel exhaust fluid tank is also eliminated.
Charging requirements were met easily by the local utility grid. Baltic Sands, one of the companies that tested the electric Volvo equipment, installed a solar array to provide electricity for the machines that were put to work in the desert.
“These electric construction equipment produce no tailpipe emissions and protect the health of neighboring communities,” says EPA Pacific Southwest Air and Radiation Division director Elizabeth Adams. “In order to attain the national air quality standards and fight climate change, we need to aim for vehicles and equipment that produce near-zero emissions.”
During the testing, the L25 Electric compact wheel loader and ECR25 Electric compact excavator were used by four organizations in a variety of application. The California Department of Transportation used them for trenching, grading, and clearing of drainage areas. Casper Company, which specializes in demolition, concrete cutting, and environmental services, used them for utility and demolition work, some of which took place inside buildings.
Baltic Sands specializes in environmentally sensitive, off-grid property development. It used the electric machines for excavating, grading, moving material, and numerous other tasks in housing construction. Waste Management, a waste disposal and recycling company, used them for light waste handling.
“Over the three months we tested, these machines performed exceptionally — matching what we would expect from a diesel machine of equal size but with no emissions,” says Jacques Marais, director of Baltic Sands. “We are excited to be one of the early adopters in applying electric equipment to our business and I have a sincere belief that this is the future.”
Volvo CE will apply the lessons learned during testing to future research and development of battery electric construction vehicles. It will continue to enhance the run times of machines, optimize the onboard charging systems, and explore alternative charging methods for job sites without readily available access to charging stations. Additionally, Volvo CE will continue to develop the electrification of other sizes and types of machines.