Head to Head: Is There Any Sacrifice if You Switch to Battery-Powered Construction Equipment?

05.09.18 10:20 AM Comment(s) By Cratos

Will switching to battery-powered construction equipment means that it’ll take longer to get jobs done because they’re less powerful? The emphatic answer is no.

Our roads and highways aren’t the only places where electric motors are changing the playing field. Internal combustion-powered construction equipment might still be the norm, but more firms are moving toward battery-powered options.

Pushed into the spotlight by operating costs and Environmental Protection Agency emission reduction laws, the switch to electric engines is forcing companies to decide if there’s a downside to this migration. Are there sacrifices? Here’s what you need to know about the pros and cons of battery-powered construction equipment.

Electric construction equipment is not less “powerful”

It’s one of the biggest concerns. Will switching to battery-powered construction equipment means that it’ll take longer to get jobs done because they’re less powerful? The emphatic answer is no.

The reason is simple. Electric motors deliver more torque than internal combustion engines. Maybe it’s our long association with big diesel engines or Detroit muscle cars; many believe that the smaller and far less complicated motors that power electric construction equipment just don’t have what it takes. It’s simply not the case.

The motors in battery-powered construction equipment are far less complex. Doing away with the many subsystems means there’s less to break down. Digital signal processing technology allows electric motors to be vastly more precise in performance than an internal combustion engine. And electric torque compensates for horsepower, in many applications. For an in-depth look, read our previous blog: “Torque or Horsepower? What Each Really is and Why It Matters.”

Less of everything

There’s more to like about battery-powered construction equipment – starting with the fact that running electric motors at a site dramatically reduces pollution. This is a benefit for companies that also have indoor operations. Electric equipment doesn’t produce exhaust, so it can be used in closed spaces without costly ventilation add-ons.

To be fair, this equipment needs to be recharged. The electricity may have been created by burning fossil fuel – so it’s not possible to say that battery-powered construction equipment completely eliminates any contribution to pollution. A significant percentage of power in the United States is still produced by plants that use coal and natural gas.

There are energy efficiency gains, however, and the fuel source is certainly more economical than filling up those internal combustion engine tanks. A complete charge costs a small fraction of gasoline or diesel. In some cases, very large electric construction equipment might require the purchase of a charging station.

The battery-powered engines found on construction equipment – or anywhere for that matter – also have far fewer moving parts. If it doesn’t exist, it can’t break. Electric construction equipment has less that can go wrong, and it needs fewer checkups. Construction companies that switch to battery-powered equipment will spend less on maintenance. They’ll also be slowed down less frequently by downtime caused by equipment failure.

Electric construction equipment produces considerably less noise, making construction companies less of a nuisance in neighborhoods or densely-populated urban areas. These quieter machines may also allow construction companies to run longer workdays without running up against noise restrictions.

Are there any sacrifices at all?

You still have to charge them, though battery lives are expanding. And any new product category introduced will carry a bigger price tag. Most battery-powered construction equipment generally costs more than traditional internal combustion counterparts. Companies looking at making a transition will have to take a higher upfront purchase cost into consideration.

There’s an upside to this upfront downside, though – and it’s a big one. Operating and maintenance costs drop so dramatically that electric construction equipment often can quickly pay for itself and then go on to produce profit, long before similar traditional internal combustion equipment can. In some cases, ­– especially for indoor demolition and rehabilitation – a piece of electric construction equipment like a mini skid steer can replace laborers to reduce costs even further.

Use this cost savings calculator to see how fast a Sherpa battery-powered mini skid steer can pay for itself and start contributing to your bottom line.

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