Ahead of the curve

The growing trend of battery-powered construction equipment. By Alex Berg

It seems as though these days, you can’t do much of anything without hearing about the proliferation of electric or battery-powered construction equipment; this is for a good reason. Emissions-free machinery not only meets regulations, but also mitigates risk, can be used indoors, reduce noise, and keep operating costs down.

According to the International Energy Agency, the global Electric Vehicle (EV) fleet exceeded 5.1 million vehicles in 2018, up 40 per cent from the two million vehicles in 2017. By 2025 global EV sales could top 100 million per year. In a new report issued by IDTechEx Research, it is predicted that by 2029 construction, agriculture, and mining EVs will surpass fuel-powered vehicles’ sales. In less than nine years, we can expect an essential shift in the construction industry.

Clean technology and the reduction of harmful emissions, coupled with the ability for use in urban job sites or noise and emissions-sensitive environments such as hospitals and schools, is making battery-power impossible to ignore.

For many, the low operating costs are the most significant selling point, much like cars. The upfront costs are higher, but the potential for cost savings makes it a worthwhile investment. Over the years, cost savings will result from fuel cost, fewer consumable parts and fluids, and servicing fees. Over five years, one can expect that expenses will be as much as 70 per cent less with a battery-powered machine than their diesel-powered counterpart. In foodservice and healthcare facilities, savings are also the result of a reduced need for ventilation and sanitation.

Not everyone in the construction industry is an early adopter, though; some are motivated by the ever-increasing regulations put out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The construction market is the most significant driving factor of ozone emissions and a notable contributor to the deteriorating air quality. In an effort to curb construction equipment impacts, several regulations are becoming much stricter in their emissions regulations to reduce their carbon footprint.

The EPA has enacted continuously stricter emissions standards for nonroad diesel engines, mainly affecting the construction industry. Simultaneously, battery-powered technology has rapidly improved and, in many ways, surpassed the diesel-powered counterpart’s performance. With stricter emissions regulations, manufacturers have provided better equipment for efficiency, reliability, safety, and performance.Equipment

For others, investing in battery-powered equipment is not merely the result of stricter emissions regulations, but also the need to work indoors. The growth in popularity is most evident in interior demolition, in which these battery-powered machines have been revolutionary in decreasing timelines and the demand for labor. The quiet operations and low emissions work well from small residential to large interior projects. Minimizing or eliminating the engine results in substantial noise reduction. It makes it more comfortable and safer for operators on the job site to hear orders and others around them.

During the 2019 bauma, electric vehicles were one of the most significant trends observed. While the initial focus on battery-powered engines is on smaller, more compact machines, manufacturers are working tirelessly to bring battery-power to larger construction machines.

A strong business case propels the growth of the battery-powered construction industry, but some barriers remain.

The growth of battery-powered construction equipment is dependent on several factors that could alter the machinery’s ease of adoption and availability. One of the biggest obstacles to entry is the higher upfront cost of EVs versus fuel-powered construction equipment.

The speed of enacting stricter regulations is another factor that plays into the growth of the battery-powered construction equipment market. While new rules seem to be springing up quickly, the implementation rate will enormously impact how fast the battery-powered construction equipment market grows. As can be seen in other countries, there are already bans on diesel and even noise pollution; it is only a matter of time before these regulations also become the standard in the United States.

Battery life, while much improved, can still be considered a barrier. Readily available charging solutions could help assuage concerns, notwithstanding the vast improvements in current solutions. While in many cases, smaller, more compact construction equipment can provide more than a full workday of battery life, larger equipment still relies on solutions such as battery-swapping and high-power-charging to elongate the equipment’s onsite use.

Electric vehicles’ energy efficiency, the lower lifetime maintenance cost, and ever- decreasing battery prices have made owning an electric construction vehicle and a wise investment. While future regulations may be the driving force to transition all equipment to battery-powered electric systems, this is a great time to get ahead of the curve and drive market leadership. There is no stopping this trend.

Alex Berg is CEO at Cratos. Founded in 2013, Cratos Equipment offers customers an eco-friendly product line of battery-powered construction equipment that is safer, cleaner, and more efficient. With virtually zero fuel costs than diesel-fuel equipment, its electric construction machinery is more cost-effective over time, quieter on the job, and releases no fumes allowing work in occupied spaces. Cratos Equipment makes work more productive.