Heavy Equipment Guide Logo

Study shows electric construction in urban areas can successfully bring sustainable benefits to cities

Heavy equipment working on an urban job site.
Volvo CE’s large 30-ton grid-connected electric excavator formed part of the Electric Worksite tests. NCC, Joakim Kröger

A study looking at the needs and potential benefits of urban electric construction shows that the transition to emissions-free job sites can be done successfully with today's electric machines and infrastructure.

Growth in sustainable city planning is accelerating the need for fossil-fuel free construction, a key part in progress towards national and global climate, environment, and air quality goals. Electrification of construction will contribute to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, noise pollution, and other harmful emissions, ensuring it plays a central role in sustainable community building.

In parallel with rising demand for emission-free construction contracting and a growing market for electric machines, the need for collaboration between all players across the value chain is also increasing to ensure the infrastructure is up to par for the change. This puts new demands on the energy supply and electrical system, among other areas.

The multi-partner study, "Electric Worksite," has mapped the infrastructure needs for electric machines through testing at real-life work sites in Gothenburg, Sweden. The goal of this project was for several players across the supply chain to work together as a way of illustrating the opportunities and needs of electric equipment working in urban areas. Its central focus was on the system itself, including electric machine testing, energy storage, and charging infrastructure in different urban sites. This helped identify the needs across various technical and organizational systems.

Electric machines studied on active construction sites

Tests took place on active construction sites, using electric-powered wheeled and crawler excavators, wheel loaders, and load carriers, weighing between 3.5 and 30 tons. Some machines were battery-electric and others were connected by cable. All tests were successful.

Key findings include:

  • Electric construction machines can perform the same work to the same standard as fossil-fueled variants in urban construction projects.
  • Workers in and around electric machines experience several positive effects in the handling of machines and the working environment.
  • The success of electrification is based on foresight, planning, and flexibility.
  • New requirements for power supply are solved based on machine type and available electricity, such as electrical cabinets, mobile charging stations, cable-connected machines, and potentially also energy storage units.
  • End customers need to be made aware of new opportunities and challenges with electric machines, as well as of existing business conditions and contracting requirements towards contractors and subcontractors.
The Volvo L25 Electric wheel loader working at Drottningtorget in central Gothenburg. Electric Worksite

Volvo CE is one of the key collaborators in the project. It has managed the tests and provided various electric machine models and sizes, as well as technical solutions for charging, such as mobile energy storage and cable management systems.

"Electric machines are already available on the market and performing well, but the challenge can often be how to establish a reliable supporting infrastructure. This project confirmed that when all actors in the value chain around a construction site collaborate, both from the public and the private sector, we solve the infrastructure around it. In all tests, regardless of application and location, the electric machines performed as well as, if not better than, equivalent models with combustion engines, but without harmful emissions and disturbing noise," said Bobbie Frank, research leader at Volvo CE.

Municipalities play an important role

Government bodies, especially municipalities, are important to the transition towards electrified job sites. They can set requirements for emissions-free vehicles and machinery, and establish clear city development goals that provide targets for all players. The City of Gothenburg has taken a keen interest in this approach.

"As the City of Gothenburg is a major procurer of construction and civil engineering contracts, we can and want to be involved in leading the transition towards an emission-free industry. We also see many other benefits for both the surrounding environment and the working environment, such as reduced noise and improved air quality," said Peter Lindgren, business developer for Electrified Transports at the Environmental Management Department, City of Gothenburg.

The electric worksite has meant evaluating opportunities and challenges with electrification for construction contractor NCC.

"Once again, we can conclude that the most important take-away is that we need to get involved early in the project to plan for electrification - because the opportunities to influence emissions are greatest in the planning stage. To scale up the use of electric construction machines and vehicles, increased competence is also needed throughout the value chain. We also need electric machines to be demanded in the contracting by customers, and that they set requirements that drive the development forward," said Pernilla Löfås, sustainability manager, NCC Infrastructure.

Company info

304 Volvo Way
Shippensburg, PA
US, 17257


Read more

Related Articles