Three things to consider when buying electric construction equipment
The push to “go green” is accelerating for all companies, regardless of industry. For folks in construction, increasing the sustainability of machines isn’t just legally required – it’s also good for business. So what’s the best strategy for adding these types of machines to your fleet? Check out our list below featuring 3 of the most important considerations when it comes to buying electric construction equipment.
1. Equipment Types
Equipment manufacturers are exploring a variety of methods to decrease or fully eliminate carbon emissions. This means that companies looking to purchase sustainable equipment need to review their options. Electric construction equipment can refer to a wide variety of machine types, including battery electric construction equipment (often known as BEVs), all electric construction equipment, and hybrid electric construction equipment.
Here’s a quick rundown of the types of electric construction equipment currently on the market:
- Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) – these machines have motors that are powered by electricity, typically by one or more internal batteries. Currently, BEVs are most likely to be smaller or compact construction equipment, but OEMs are finally starting to branch out to larger tonnage machines.
- Cable-powered (or “tethered”) machines – this type of electric construction equipment is powered by a cable that is plugged into an electrical outlet at a construction site. These machines are often found in quarries and mines.
Cable-powered machines and BEVs can also fall into the “all or fully electric construction equipment” category.
- Hybrid electric construction equipment – machines that fall in to the hybrid category use a source of electrical power, such as batteries, a power cable, or hydrogen fuel cells, combined with diesel. These versatile hybrids are helping to bridge the gap between current electric construction equipment technology and the future innovations that will eventually provide power density that is similar to diesel.
- Alternative fuel-powered equipment – this category of equipment uses internal combustion engines fueled by biodiesels (such as hydrotreated vegetable oil or HVO) or biogas.
2. Environmental Impact
Understanding the environmental effects of electric construction equipment also plays an important role in deciding which sustainable machines are right for you.
According to a report from the United Nations, around 23% of global CO2 emissions come from construction with approximately 5.5% of those emissions from construction machines. Many cities and municipalities throughout the world are adopting new rules for construction zones, including the introduction of zero emissions construction sites. Oslo, Helsinki, and Copenhagen are leading the charge in Europe, with some projects seeing contractors with zero or low-emissions equipment having a leg up over their competitors.
Rental companies, like Boels Rental, are embracing these new developments by adding electric construction equipment to their fleets. Both all electric construction equipment, as well as hybrid electric construction equipment, are available for end users to try out these types of machines.
Another great benefit of electric construction equipment is the reduction of noise pollution. While often overshadowed by discussions about sustainability, noise is a major concern for workers at construction sites as well as businesses and residences in close proximity. Low-noise electric construction equipment can help reduce dangerous levels of excessive noise that can cause hearing loss, tinnitus, and even on-site accidents. And with low emissions construction sites often including regulations on noise, electric construction equipment is a great solution that can meet both requirements.
Fuel, repairs, TCO. These topics are top-of-mind when it comes to choosing the right type of machine. When it comes to electric construction equipment, it’s important to understand the costs that come with these assets and how they fit into your budget.
Currently, electric construction equipment is priced above diesel machines, primarily due to costs associated with the battery packs needed to power these assets. The bump in pricing also takes into account the time and investment in designing this type of equipment. Some studies have shown, however, that savings from forgoing diesel and reduced maintenance costs could offset the initial increased cost.
Two other important considerations are sufficient infrastructure for obtaining electricity and recharging times. Like electric passenger vehicles, building and maintaining the infrastructure to keep electric construction equipment moving is an on-going challenge that the EU and its member countries are working hard to address.
In the meantime, OEMs like Volvo have developed machines that use lithium-ion batteries that can be charged using a 220/240 volt electrical socket. Manufacturers are also looking into options like mobile power banks and solar arrays that could provide power when the local electrical grid isn’t accessible. To help address the current infrastructure challenges, companies have invested heavily in quickly charging batteries that can last for an entire work day. Volvo, Bobcat, JCB, Caterpillar, and other OEMs have recently released equipment with batteries that can hold a charge for 6-8 hours a day and can be recharged within 2-4 hours.
Extra: The resale value of used electric construction machinery
One last thing to consider is residual value and resale price. Electric construction equipment is still developing and the number of machines in the market are greatly outnumbered by conventional diesel equipment. Also, the large majority of used electric construction equipment is currently in use in its first lifecycle and has not been transacted yet on the used equipment market. More electric equipment transaction data will be collected through Ritchie Bros. over the coming years, but we’ve recently released an interesting report with key trends and residual values of used electric equipment. Another thing to keep in mind is machine operating time. With electric construction equipment, there’s no idle time. When the operator stops working with the machine, the electric engine shuts off, dramatically reducing operating time.
So what’s the moral of the story? Regulations are becoming increasingly strict, as the EU has adopted Stage V emissions standards. And observers speculate that by 2029, the majority of equipment in construction, mining, and agriculture will be electric. When you’re ready to start adding electric construction equipment to your fleet, there are great options available to meet your needs, whether its BEVs or hybrid electric construction equipment. It’s an exciting time for the market and electric equipment is here to stay.