Equipment powered by internal combustion engines is under fire in many countries, including the UK. The fight over which fuel is better, diesel or petrol, is no longer on the front burner. Today, the impetus is to get rid of such engines altogether.
The construction industry is looking into saying goodbye to diesel and petrol engines over the long term and is welcoming all-electric propulsion or electric-powered hydraulics for motion. These new generation engines can even work with heavy-duty machines, such as diggers and cement mixers, not to mention smaller equipment, including lawnmowers and chainsaws.
Is it possible for the electricity-powered engines to replace fuel-powered motors in the next decade? It seems so. Some companies have already done it.
Pon Equipment And Caterpillar – Electric Excavator
Pon Equipment and Caterpillar have recently developed a zero-emissions 63.5 cm electric excavator. The 323F model can work with a single battery charge for up to 7 hours. If you charge the battery for an hour with a 400-volt charger, you can use the machine for at least another hour. With a 1000-volt charger you can give the battery a full charge in just 1.5 hours.
The digger looks similar to its petrol-operated relatives but without an exhaust pipe. It could become an excellent environmentally friendly replacement for petrol and diesel equipment.
JCB – Electric Mini Digger
In March 2018, JCB announced the launch of a battery-powered digger, which may eventually replace its petrol and diesel counterparts. The equipment can work indoors, outdoors, underground, and virtually anywhere thanks to having no emissions.
The excavator can be charged by plugging it into a regular socket, and has a short charging time. The lithium-ion battery can last the whole working day without recharging. The machine is expected to be commercially available by the end of 2018.
How Will The Conversion Go?
Replacing a diesel or petrol engine with a battery requires substantial modifications. Meanwhile, developing software for such machines is an additional challenge. Several companies are already offering a smooth conversion process from one engine to another at a reasonable price. This allows contractors to save money by retrofitting their existing plant instead of buying new construction equipment.
What Are The Forecasts?
Considering the obvious environmental advantages of electric engines over petrol and diesel, the conversion to electricity is expected to happen within 20 to 25 years.
The director of emerging technologies at Volvo, Jenny Elfsberg, believes that all their company’s machines will go electric in the future. The transition is expected to take several years, meaning that combustion engines are here to stay for some time.
When it comes to heavy-duty plant, the goal is to prevent components that allow engines to run on electricity from interfering with the work of the equipment. Some companies have already achieved that for small products. Others are struggling to find an optimised solution for larger machines.
It seems as if the transition from diesel and petrol to electricity is inevitable, at least in the long term. The question is how long it will take to create viable battery-operated machinery which works just as efficiently as diesel and petrol powered plant.