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Five reasons construction job sites are going electric

An electric excavator working on top of a rock pile.
Electric construction equipment is growing in demand on many job sites. Komatsu

Electrification of construction machinery is hardly a new concept. For years, electric equipment has been commonly seen in a variety of applications, from demolition and mining to aerial lift and industrial work.

Now, however, electric equipment is becoming increasingly prevalent on and around job sites. Its potential is evident. Its benefits are clear. Its long-term place in the industry is no longer up for debate. And, as electric vehicles continue to be more widely adopted by consumers, all that's left to do is examine - and try to accurately determine - how the construction industry should prepare for the technology to become fully mainstream in the not-too-distant future.

"If you go out about three years, there will be approximately 700 electric vehicles roadside, and that's not even getting into construction and agriculture," said David Knight, CEO of Terbine, a provider of technology for the seamless exchanging of IoT data between the mobility and energy sectors, who spoke on how the construction industry should prepare for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in the not-too-distant future at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023.

According to Knight, there are five main reasons why equipment end users in the construction industry are strongly considering investing (or already have invested) in electric machinery. They are:

Lower operating costs - The savings on diesel costs alone are significant. Most OEMs cite a range of four to eight hours of runtime for "average" use on electric compact equipment, with an eight-hour overnight charge. And while it's quick and easy to compare run times on a fully charged electric machine with a full tank on diesel units, there's no idle on an electric machine. Therefore, an operator can get a day or more of productive work out of it because they're typically not running a machine for eight continuous hours a day.

Lower maintenance costs - Reciprocating engines possess many friction-generating parts, which fail. The friction, and the frictional components and amount of heat generated with an engine running is really what contributes to parts being replaced and maintained.

Tax credits - In some jurisdictions, incentives can offer savings in the tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, across a single fleet. Because they change all the time, it's important for organizations to stay up to date regarding what's available, both regionally and nationally.

Carbon credits and offsets - Carbon credits, also known as carbon allowances, work like permission slips for emissions. When a company buys a carbon credit, usually from the government, they gain permission to generate one ton of CO2 emissions. When one company removes a unit of carbon from the atmosphere as part of their normal business activity, they can generate a carbon offset. Other companies can then purchase that carbon offset to reduce their own carbon footprint.

ESG goals - Many organizations are setting and working toward Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals, and it's a trend that's only expected to become more common with time. Without goals and corresponding policies, organizations face ESG risk, which includes loss of investors, a damaged reputation, and fines for regulatory noncompliance.

There is every reason to believe the electric vehicles and electric equipment will continue to develop and improve over time, said Knight, thus making a greater level of adoption even more likely in the very near future. According to the Terbine CEO, the architectures of electric vehicles are going to even higher voltages. The higher the voltage, he explained, the less current is needed for a given amount of wattage. That also means less heat. And, while voltages are very good now, they are expected to improve significantly in the coming years.

"They're going to be really good in three to five years, and that's going to allow for even faster and more efficient charging than ever before," he added.

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