Volvo’s Drive to Electric – Your Questions Answered
If you follow us on social media or in the news, you’re likely aware of our new electromobility endeavor: Volvo Construction Equipment will be the first manufacturer to launch a full range of electric compact excavators and wheel loaders, starting by mid-2020. Alongside that announcement, Volvo is stopping new diesel engine development of mini excavator models globally from the EC15 to EC27 and compact front end loaders from the L20 to L28.
The first two models were unveiled in April 2019 at the Bauma international construction trade fair in Munich, Germany. The electric ECR25 excavator and L25 wheel loader run on lithium-ion batteries and have zero exhaust emissions. They also have significantly lower noise levels, reduced energy costs, improved efficiency and less maintenance requirements compared with their conventional counterparts.
Why is Volvo CE making this change?
The world is moving toward a more environmentally conscious, sustainable future, and that includes the construction industry. There have been many emissions incentives and zero-emissions levels set by cities and countries for on-road vehicle improvements, and the off-road industry started to follow in some areas of the world. Additionally, we see demand from our customers to meet their own self-set lower emissions goals. Volvo now gives them options to help reach these targets.
This move positions Volvo CE as the first construction equipment manufacturer to commit to an electric future for its compact machine range. That’s a bold decision, made in step with a challenge from our Volvo CE President, Melker Jernberg, to stir the market for zero exhaust emission compact equipment, where we see the most potential for acceptance and application. And while few competitor manufacturers offer electric or hybrid models, none matches Volvo’s level of development commitment and scale of the announced product range.
For electric equipment to become the norm, machines need to be designed and proven to overcome the main concerns voiced by skeptical buyers around energy capacity, performance and price. These first battery-electric models are already changing mindsets by bringing our customers along every step in this electromobility journey.
In terms of power and performance, how will these first electric compact machines compare to traditional combustion engine machines?
The ECR25 mini excavator is fitted with lithium-ion batteries and one electric motor that replaces the diesel engine to power the hydraulics in order to move the machine and attachment. The machine’s batteries store enough electric energy to power the ECR25 for up to eight hours in its most common applications, such as utility work.
The L25 compact wheel loader also uses lithium-ion batteries, which allow for up to eight hours of operation in the machine’s regular applications, including light infrastructure work, gardening, landscaping and agriculture. The L25 loader also incorporates two dedicated electric motors, one for the drivetrain and one for the hydraulics. Decoupling the subsystems has led to higher efficiency in both the systems and the entire machine.
Both the ECR25 and L25 have onboard chargers that enable overnight charging via a regular household electrical socket. In addition, an off-board fast charger could be used to charge both machines and would require a three-phase outlet. With the fast-charge options, the ECR25 can be at 80 percent power within one hour of charge time, and the L25 within two hours of charge time.
The electric versions have performance levels similar to their conventional diesel equivalents, so customers will get the same performance in more efficient, environmentally-friendly machines. For example, the ECR25 electric mini excavator has a digging depth of 9 ft (2.76 m) and a breakout force of 4,541 lbf (20.2 kN). The L25 electric front end loader has a full-turn tipping load of 3.7 tons (3.35 metric tons), a dump height of 8.2 ft (2.5 m) and a 2.2-ton (2-metric ton) payload fork load capacity.
When will they be offered in North America?
In 2019, a number of machines are being tested in customer pilot projects before production begins.
Details are still being finalized, but we plan to have both machines commercially available in mid-2020 in select European markets. North America will follow Europe, but exact dates are not set yet. However, diesel engine versions of these products will continue to be manufactured alongside the new electric models to meet current customer demand.
How will the price of electric machines compare to their diesel counterparts?
The total cost of ownership (TCO) should be considered when evaluating the actual price of the new electric models, largely around fuel savings, less scheduled maintenance and extended component life. No prices are announced at this time, but even though the electric machines might not be cheaper, they add more value for our customers. They allow them to bid on emission-restricted jobs, work during the night in densely populated areas and work indoors, as well as in many other niche applications that we might not know about yet.
What other electric machines is Volvo CE working on?
We’re conducting extensive research and product development on a range of hybrid and battery-electric solutions, some demonstrated in the recent Electric Site project with Skanska, which saw a 98 percent reduction in carbon emissions. The Electric Site showed that electrification is beneficial, but also possible with different machine types and sizes using different technologies.
It’s clear that our industry is in a period of rapid change. But for many machine sizes, applications and markets, the diesel engine will remain the most appropriate power source for a number of years, and we will continue to manufacture diesel machines of all sizes. So the decision on what you use — diesel powered or electric — rests with you.
Be sure to follow us on your social channel of choice — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram — in the coming months for future developments, and if you have comments or additional questions, please post them below.
By Fares Beainy, Electromobility Strategy & Business Development Manager, Volvo Construction Equipment.