American entrepreneurs are now living first-hand experiences with Volvo Construction Equipment’s first battery-powered electric compact machines, the Volvo ECR25 excavator and the L25 wheel loader.
Four Volvo CE customers used the two machines in various applications for about a year.
The verdict? Zero emissions does not mean decreased productivity. Testers say they saw no compromise in dig depth and breakout force on the excavator or tipping load and dump height on the wheel loader. In addition, the units made full use of the hydraulic power of all attachments.
To help show its operators what the electric ECR25 could do, a company testing the machines, demolition contractor Casper Company, held a side-by-side demonstration of the electric unit with a diesel machine, both equipped circuit breakers. “It was as strong if not stronger [than the diesel machine] and it changed everyone’s mind, ”says Darrell Merritt, Casper’s superintendent. “I was shocked too.”
“I had guys who wanted all the diesel power they could get, and they were surprised by the machines,” says Jacques Marais, director of Baltic Sands, a residential builder specializing in off-grid property management, who has also demonstrated the electric units.
Where the challenges remain are battery charging speed and infrastructure. “Currently there are limits to getting a full eight-hour day,” Marais comments. Yet, he says, “recognize that the electric machine is going to give you something that really comes close to it.”
“My guys usually work 10 hours a day and we had to bill them at lunch and during breaks,” says Merritt. “If we dug gently we would go a little deeper, but not if we used a hammer 10 hours a day. “
But there is no doubt that there is a growing interest in electrical units from users, prompted in part by owners’ concerns about emissions and noise produced by diesel machines.
A week after the California press conference, Volvo CE demonstrated the two machines at the Utility Expo. More than tire shooters have taken over the orders: Volvo says it took ECR25 orders during the show, orders that will start filling in January.
Tester experienceVolvo CE
Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the purpose of the pilot test was twofold, says Ray Gallant, vice president of management product and productivity at Volvo CE. One, put the machines in real working conditions, and two, test the charging infrastructure.
Working through its Volvo Construction Equipment & Services California dealership, Volvo brought in four organizations to demonstrate the electric ECR25 and L25:
- Baltic Sands used the machines to excavate, level, and move material, among other tasks.
- Casper used them for demolition work, including inside buildings.
- The California Department of Transportation used the units to dig trenches, level and clean up drainage areas.
- The waste disposal and recycling giant Waste Management has entrusted them with light treatment of waste.
Together, the operations take 400 hours on the machines – but don’t equate that to hours on a diesel engine, which accumulates hours as it burns fuel, including idle time. With electric machines, if things don’t move, no time accumulates.
The test operations revealed that the charging infrastructure and speed remain a challenge, although Volvo says the high current available on the US electricity grid has proven to be beneficial compared to the European tests it has conducted. The tests used several charging options, including a 240-volt power grid, a prototype 48-volt fast-charging mobile charger, and a solar-powered charger made by Beam Global.
The machines use the same type 2 charger currently on electric cars.
Using fast outboard charging, the excavator can be recharged to 80% within an hour; for the charger, 80% can be reached in 2 hours. Charging on board takes 5 hours for the excavator and 12 hours for the loader. Depending on the application and use, this gives each machine approximately 8 hours of operation.
Since Casper was using his electrical machines for several jobs, he carried the units to his yard for nighttime charges.
Since Baltic Sands works in remote areas that are not connected to the grid, during the early stages of the project, she took the machines back to her yard to recharge them. Baltic eventually landed on using the solar charger. “We found it to be a very good solution,” says Marais. “It was an exciting prospect for us, especially across the board.
“Personally, I love solar charging,” says Gallant. In fact, Volvo asked Beam Global to install its EV ARC 2020 transportable charging station at the company’s Utility Expo booth. We will explore this system in a later article.
While its older operators were hesitant at first, it quickly dissipated, Merritt says. “They understood that it was not that difficult. There were other advantages as well.
“We do a lot of underground utilities in existing occupied buildings, and some of the biggest issues we have are noise and exhaust,” says Merritt. For this reason, his company was prompted to do this work by hand. Merritt was actively looking for an alternative when the Volvo test opportunity presented itself.
“My guys loved it because they could talk to each other,” he says. (Volvo says that exterior noise was reduced by 9 decibels – a 90% reduction in sound power – on the ECR25 compared to diesel units. The L25 experienced a similar reduction in sound power.) “They usually wave them down. arm to attract the attention of an operator, so it is also a matter of safety. “
Another plus, says Merritt, is that you don’t get tired at the end of the day.
“Operator fatigue is a big problem,” admits Marais.
Electrical machines could also be a competitive advantage, says Merritt. “A lot of times we get a bad rap for being loud demolition guys. It gives us a head start and our general contractors are very excited about it. “
Volvo also emphasizes that electric machines do not require maintenance of the diesel engine, such as oil change, oil filters and diesel particulate filters. The DEF tank is also eliminated. What remains is the hydraulic system oil and filter and the coolant for the inverters and transmission.
Volvo says lithium-ion battery-powered units – who again worked 400 combined hours – reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by 6 metric tons. Compared to a diesel-powered model, the test units saved 560 gallons of fuel at an estimated cost of $ 2,400, according to Volvo.
Priced at $ 92,900, the ECR25 features a 24-hour (peak) electric motor, a 20-kilowatt-hour battery capacity, and a curb weight of 6,102 pounds. In the operator’s seat, the noise of the machine is 74 decibels; outside the machine it’s 84 decibels.
The L25, priced at $ 135,000, has a 48 horsepower (peak) electric motor, 1.2 cubic yard bucket, and weighs 11,023 pounds.
Volvo says it will continue to expand the electrification of other sizes and types of machines, while seeking additional grant opportunities and strategic partnerships. Beyond electricity, Volvo sees hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen combustion and grid-connected machines all play a role in the zero-emission jobsite journey.
Volvo says its R&D will then focus on further improving machine uptime, optimizing on-board charging systems and exploring alternative charging methods for job sites that do not have direct access. at charging stations.