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Volvo CE test shows electric machines ‘viable alternatives’ to diesel equipment


September 24, 2021
By Volvo CE/Rock to Road Staff

Topics
The Volvo Construction Equipment L25 Electric compact wheel loader and ECR25 Electric compact excavator at work for Baltic Sands in the California desert during the pilot project. Photo: Volvo CE

Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) says its electric equipment matches the performance of its traditional diesel offerings, according to a yearlong pilot of two of its zero-emissions machines in North America.

The company shared the results of its testing of the ECR25 Electric compact excavator and L25 Electric compact wheel loader at a press event in Los Angeles.

Also at the event were officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and customers who tested the machines. An EPA grant from the South Coast AQMD provided funding for the project.

The pilot results come on the cusp of the company’s full roll-out of electric machines in these sizes, with customer deliveries of the ECR25 Electric expected in January 2022 and both units available throughout North America early in 2022.

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The company is the first to commercialize dedicated electric machines at the larger end of the compact size range.

“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 Region North America, Volvo CE, in a statement.

“This just adds further momentum to the Volvo vision of offering machines that align with Science Based Targets and our overall commitment to decarbonization.”

Key findings

The pilot project confirms Volvo electric construction equipment matches performance and has significant benefits when compared to diesel machines in the same class.

“The California pilot project supports what we’ve seen on jobsites 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 act, and by working together and collaborating we can reduce the amount of harmful emissions that are entering the atmosphere.”

The L25 Electric compact wheel loader and ECR25 Electric compact excavator were used by four organizations in a variety of applications. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), used them for trenching, grading and clearing of drainage areas.

Casper Company, which specializes in demolition, concrete cutting and environmental services, used the machines for utility and demolition work, including inside buildings.

Baltic Sands, which specializes in environmentally sensitive, off-grid property development, used the machines for excavation, grading, moving material and numerous other tasks in housing construction.

Waste Management, a waste disposal and recycling company, used the equipment for light waste handling.

Here’s where the machines landed on the test criteria:

Sustainability

Powered by lithium-ion batteries and producing zero emissions, the ECR25 and L25 compact electric machines proved themselves as environmentally sound options. They also allowed some of the customers to operate inside buildings and other structures where diesel exhaust is restricted.

Based on the combined 400 operating hours of electric machine use during the year-long pilot, there was a reduction of six metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and an approximate savings of 560 gallons of fuel with an estimated cost of $2,400, when comparing diesel machine use at the same amount of hours.

Noise

There was significantly lower noise levels compared with diesel equipment, reducing noise pollution and improving jobsite communication and safety by making it easier for crew members to hear each other. The testers said the machines could allow them to work in sound-sensitive areas.

Compared to their diesel counterparts, the ECR25 Electric compact excavators lowered exterior noise levels by nine decibels (dBA), which represents a 90 per cent decrease in sound power. The L25 Electric compact wheel loader sees a similar reduction in sound power, which is a measurement of noise radiating from a source.

The Volvo L25 Electric compact wheel loader uses a fork attachment to plant a 16-foot-tall, 3,500-pound cork oak tree in the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden. Photo: Volvo CE

Performance

The Volvo electric machines have similar specifications to their diesel equivalents, and pilot project participants said that in practice the performance matched that of diesel machines.

There also was positive feedback on the decreased maintenance needs of the electric machines, which don’t require maintenance items such as oil, oil filters and diesel particulate filters. The need for a diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank is also eliminated.

The electric machines matched performance in several key areas, including digging depth and breakout force on the excavator and tipping load and dump height on the wheel loader.

Charging

The project was an enabler for adaptations to the machines to make them compatible with the North American power grid. The higher current available on the U.S. power grid compared with Europe was found to be a benefit to charging.

The Volvo CE pilot project confirmed the importance of having access to quality charging connections. However, traditional power sources aren’t always required. Baltic Sands, for example, installed a solar array for its work in the desert.

Between the two machines, over 200 charge cycles were completed using 240-volt AC grid power, fast charging, mobile power sources and solar power.

“These electric construction equipment produce no tailpipe emissions and protect the health of neighbouring communities,” says Elizabeth Adams, EPA Pacific Southwest air and radiation division director.

“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.”

Next steps

Volvo CE continues to compile data and will submit full reports on the project to the South Coast AQMD and EPA.

The company will apply the learnings to future research and development of battery-electric vehicles.

Points of emphasis will be to continue to enhance the run times of machines, optimize the onboard charging systems and continue to explore alternative charging methods for jobsites without readily available access to charging stations.

Pre-booking of the ECR25 Electric compact excavator and L25 Electric compact wheel loader for North American customers is open now for when delivery begins in early 2022.