Electrifying construction vehicles: the challenges and key considerations

1st August 2023  |  Electric vehicle

Automotive electrification is driven by the goal of sustainable transportation. Reducing the significant contribution to global CO2 emissions from passenger and fleet vehicles is a unified goal by EV manufacturers. This is reinforced by legislation from many governments banning the manufacture of internal combustion engines (ICE) by as early as 2030.

The drivers behind the electrification of construction vehicles also include the reduction of CO2 emissions, but there are additional benefits such as productivity, efficiency and reliability. That said, these benefits are accompanied by a number of challenges that need to be addressed before widespread electrification.

Benefits of construction vehicle electrification

Depending on the construction vehicle, there are a number of systems required to perform their specific duties; excavators rely upon hydraulic systems and agricultural vehicles have a number of ancillaries. Because of these systems, electrification can pose a number of improvements to traditional ICE models;

  • Efficiency – With the example of hydraulic systems, traditional ICE examples produce an inefficient net mechanical energy availability of approximately 25%. Electric motors increase this energy efficiency to 56%, with greater improvements and innovations regularly being implemented.
  • Productivity – Electric construction vehicles utilise energy recovery systems that convert kinetic energy to power. This directly increases productivity and reduces lifetime operating costs for a number of vehicles.
  • Reliability – Electric construction vehicles have up to 60% fewer transmission parts, directly reducing the complexity/time of maintenance and exhibiting a greater level of reliability.

Challenges and considerations of construction vehicle electrification

Energy density vs weight

large construction vehicles such as cranes and mining trucks face substantial challenges of energy density and weight. As these vehicles face complex load profiles that are more than the simple factor of traction faced by passenger vehicles, they have far greater demands of power. Because of this, larger battery packs are required that result in increased weight and, in turn, greater energy consumption; creating a vicious battle between energy density and design weight.

In light of this, the benefits of construction vehicles are fully realised in smaller designs. A key example of this is compact excavators, such as the 19C-1E. It uses a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery and weighs almost two tonnes. It can operate for up to 5 hours in standard applications, making it an efficient and productive solution for small scale construction.

Charging infrastructure

Due to the high energy demands of large construction vehicles, they share an equally significant demand of charging infrastructure in order to be used regularly and efficiently on an active site. Not only can this infrastructure be expensive, but sufficient charging capacity that goes beyond the highs of 350 kW is currently unavailable.

Fortunately, there has been significant technological development in Megawatt Charging Systems (MCS). These systems are being designed for large fleet vehicles such as trucks, but could easily be integrated into the large construction vehicle industry once available. In the meantime, level 3 DC chargers are more than suitable for smaller scale construction vehicles, such as the proprietary charging solutions for Volvo’s own electrified designs.

Be up-to-date with electrification at Dalroad

Like many industries, the electrification of construction vehicles is becoming an increasingly important movement towards sustainability. The difference with construction, however, is that electrification also brings a range of benefits for efficiency, productivity and reliability. That said, these benefits can only be fully realised once the challenges of energy density, weight and charging infrastructure are overcome.

If you are making the transition to electrification, we have a team of experienced professionals in the field of high-power EV components to provide you with the guidance you need. At Dalroad, we can advise you on the components that suit your EV design to ensure efficiency, performance and continuous operability. Contact us today to find the perfect component solutions for your design.

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