Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) is delivering on its commitment of ‘Building Tomorrow’ with the unveiling of its first commercial zero-emissions electric compact excavator and wheel loader.
When Volvo Construction Equipment president, Melker Jernberg, is asked why North American contractors would buy a battery-powered electric-drive machine, he quickly counters with “why should they not?'”
The zero-emissions machine promise to deliver zero exhaust emissions, significantly lower noise levels, reduced energy costs, improved efficiency and less maintenance requirements.
In the announcement, Volvo said it would become “the first construction equipment manufacturer to commit to an electric future for its compact machine range.”
Melker clearly feels going all-electric with these machines will give Volvo CE a distinction in the crowded compact equipment market.
“The electric-drive market right now is not there, so the feeling was, ‘let’s create it.’ We also feel the timing is right. Someone needs to start,” Jernberg says.
Helping underline that feeling, Jernberg reports that five minutes after the machine unveiling, Volvo CE sold a L25 wheel loader to a Scandinavian construction firm. “He told us, 'I would like to be part of the change'” he comments.
The engines on both machines have been replaced with lithium-ion batteries. The excavator uses these batteries plus one electric motor to power the hydraulics, and will last eight hours in most common applications. The L25 uses two dedicated electric motors, one for the drivetrain and one for the hydraulics, and also has an eight-hours cycle. Charging is accomplished overnight using a common household outlet. Volvo also plans to have a fast-charging option.
“The ECR25 and L25 are revolutionary machines that demonstrate Volvo CE's commitment to future technology,” says Scott Young, Director Electromobility and Automation. “As the machines are electric, no particulate matter, nitrogen oxide or carbon dioxide are released into the environment. This, together with the fact that they have extremely low noise levels, makes them ideal for use in cities and densely populated areas.”
One question naturally arises: won’t the electric-drive machines be more expensive than standard machines? While that will be likely, Jernberg counters that entire lifecycle costs need to be brought into the equation, with the electric-drive machines costing less to “fuel” and operate.
Volvo’s continuing Electric Site research project, conducted in a Skanska’s quarry in Sweden last year — and which saw a 98% reduction in carbon emissions — shows that battery powered larger machines will also have a place in the electric-drive future, Jernberg says.
“But the natural place to start is with these compact machines,” he adds.