All Roads Lead to Electric Town
Advances in technology mean the electrification of the construction industry
There are massive changes afoot in energy usage. Oil, gasoline, and the combustible engines they power still play a central role in our lives, but possibly not for too much longer. A look at employment numbers backs this up. According to a U.S. Energy and Employment report, five times as many people work in the renewable energy sector as those working in fossil fuels.
These days it’s probably difficult to go for a drive without seeing an electric or hybrid vehicle. Many states are creating initiatives to get more non-gas autos on the roads, including Hawaii, which aims to make them the majority in the state by 2045.
While that’s great, chances are still good that most of the equipment you see on a construction site still runs on fuel. But again, that’s almost certainly going to change, and probably sooner rather than later.
What the experts think
If you really want to know what’s ahead for the construction equipment industry, you need to hear from the insiders – someone like Jenny Elfsberg, the Director of Emerging Technologies at Volvo.
“I am absolutely convinced all of our machines will be all-electric in the future,” Elfsberg says. “Either they will be battery powered or connect to the electric grid.”
Elfsberg does admit that this transition will take time, and that combustion engines will still be important for the foreseeable future. However, she believes that “they will be smaller and have a smoother operation in a narrower band as they are designed to be more and more efficient. The fuel should be renewable, and so hydrogen will be an important parallel approach to electric when that becomes viable. The goal will be to get the most possible efficiency with electric power.”
Eric Hendrickson, Business Development Manager of Vehicle Electrification at Parker Hannifin, agrees with Elfsberg. He believes that off-highway vehicles will shift towards electricity due to a number of technological factors, including “autonomy, artificial intelligence, fast charging, advances in batteries (energy density, charge acceptance rate, and price), high-efficiency electric motors and generators, and combined electrohydraulic actuators.”
Hendrickson predicts that electrification will be the norm in about a decade.
The challenges to all-electric construction equipment
While there has been much progress in recent years, challenges still remain for larger battery-powered construction vehicles, including “energy-storage methods, limiting machine consumption of that stored energy, and the ability to quickly generate or replace that energy again,” says Terry Hershberger, Sales Director at Bosch Rexroth.
Hendrickson, however, doesn’t see these as obstacles for long. “I anticipate continued advancements in charging infrastructure, battery technology, and fast charging-technology that will overcome the major engineering challenges,” he says.
Elfsberg even envisions the prospect of powering construction equipment with cables attached directly to the grid. She sees the possibility of sites developing “their own local electric grid with storage, and this could include renewable energy such as wind and solar.”
How you can prepare for the future
It’s now no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’ with electric construction equipment, which is why it’s essential for companies to think long-term. And for folks who don’t want to change with the times or don’t feel it’s necessary? Elfsberg has this to say to them:
“Change is coming and we all need to invest and prepare for these future developments while taking care of today’s and tomorrow’s machines and customers.”
If you’re thinking about the future but want to invest in battery-powered construction equipment today – machines that can reduce your fuel costs while operating indoors without emissions or noise – contact Triple E Equipment.