Electric innovations charge ahead at The Utility Expo 2023
The Utility Expo 2023 featured a rise in alternative-energy equipment, reflecting growing regulations and changing preferences regarding off-road equipment emissions.
Utility construction professionals came to The Utility Expo in record numbers. The event offered utility pros the ability to test and assess new tools and machinery to determine if the new alternative-energy equipment on offer fits their needs.
Stopping the engine and starting the ePTO
The current generation of bucket trucks relies on the truck's engine to power the hydraulics that lift the crew into the air to access the utility lines or tree limbs that are on a job's itinerary.
Now, manufacturers are introducing the ePTO, the electric power take-off. These systems allow an operator to turn off the engine of the bucket truck when they arrive on site, and use electricity supplied by an onboard battery, to lift and hold the bucket in place. Two examples on hand at The Utility Expo 2023 were Terex's HyPower SmartPTO and Custom Truck One Source (using Vanguard's lithium-ion battery system) and Load King's Lightning ePTO. The ePTO system also reduces wear and tear on the hydraulic oil and equipment because the electric system holds everything in place, adding maintenance cost savings to the existing fuel cost savings and emissions reductions.
Power at a small cost
Volvo CE brought its electric equipment lineup to The Utility Expo, including their ECR25 which debuted at The Utility Expo 2021, and the medium-duty EC230 Electric excavator that debuted at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023.
For utility crews working jobs taking less than a day, the EC230 Electric costs less to operate. Using an average cost of $0.16 per kWh (the EC230 Electric's battery has a 264-kWh capacity), a full charge costs an operator just over $42 and provides four to five hours of active runtime. That could get a full day's work done since the battery doesn't use much energy while not actively working. That gives the excavator an approximate operating cost of a little over $8 per hour, which is approximately half the price of similar diesel units at current fuel prices.
More ways to go electric
J-Tech, a key player in highway safety vehicles, unveiled an innovative attenuator truck in collaboration with Canadian EV startup Lion Electric. Using Lion Electric's Lion6 Class 6 commercial chassis, J-Tech's electric attenuator truck helps ensure highway safety for utility crews, bringing the benefits of lower costs and eliminating the environmental impact of engine idling.
Over at the Milwaukee Tool booth, the company showcased their hand-tool-focused M18 FUEL and MX FUEL battery systems. The M18 system, when combined with Milwaukee's REDLITHIUM technology and Super Charger, powers tools like the M18 FORECLOGIC three-inch underground cable cutter or SUPER HAWG right angle drill with a 30 percent smaller battery, providing an 80 percent charge in just 15 minutes.
Simultaneously, the MX FUEL series powers tools previously in the domain of gas-powered equipment, such as the 14-inch cut-off saw, 20-inch plate compactor, or the all-electric breaker. These battery-electric tools offer lighter weight, less vibration, less noise, and no engine emissions.
Modern technology for modern jobs
Although some alternative energy equipment showcased at The Utility Expo remains in the concept/prototype stage, a substantial portion is ready for arrival on job sites. The 2023 show featured a record amount of alternative energy tech, hinting at an even more substantial presence in the 2025 show.
The Utility Expo will return to Louisville and the Kentucky Exposition Center from October 7 to 9, 2025.