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Electric Construction Equipment: Which Parts of Your Fleet Should You Electrify?

Electric Construction Equipment: Which Parts of Your Fleet Should You Electrify?

A top-down view of a construction worker on the platform of an electric scissor lift

Electric Construction Equipment: Which Parts of Your Fleet Should You Electrify?

Reading time: 6 min

As environmental concerns and sustainability become increasingly important to the construction industry, the shift towards electric equipment has accelerated rapidly. The transition from traditional, diesel-powered machinery to electric alternatives is driven by the need for lower carbon emissions and compliance with stringent emissions regulations.

Before making any costly purchasing decisions, it’s important to understand which elements of your fleet should be electric. This involves weighing factors such as the types of construction projects you commonly undertake, the maintenance and operational costs associated with various types of equipment and the availability of charging infrastructure.  

As we get into the topic of electric equipment used in construction, it's important to understand the benefits and challenges of electrification. This knowledge will help you make informed decisions, guiding you as you optimize your fleet toward sustainability and profitability.

Making the Case for Electric Equipment

The transition to electric equipment represents a step toward improved sustainability and efficiency.

For starters, electric motors operate far more quietly than their diesel counterparts, minimizing the impact on surrounding areas and enhancing the quality of life for local residents and equipment operators alike. This makes them great for projects in densely occupied neighborhoods, such as residential neighborhoods.

In addition, governments at all levels are beginning to recognize the benefits of electric equipment and are, in some cases, subsidizing or regulating its adoption.

Subsidies, tax advantages, grants and dedicated programs are increasingly available to support companies as they transition to electric fleets. These financial incentives not only help offset the initial higher purchase price of electric equipment but also signal a commitment to sustainable practices.

Another key consideration is maintenance costs. While the upfront cost of electric equipment can be higher than diesel equipment, the lifetime operational expenses tend to be lower. A significant factor is the cost of diesel fuel, which is frequently subject to price volatility and can represent a considerable portion of a fleet's operating budget. 

In contrast, the cost of electricity for charging electric equipment is generally lower and more stable. Additionally, electric machines tend to have fewer moving parts, leading to reduced maintenance costs and downtime.

Beyond these financial and environmental benefits, electric equipment also offers improved performance in some cases, with instant torque and better controllability. The reduction in vibration and engine heat can further contribute to a safer and more comfortable working environment.

Analyzing Electric vs Diesel vs Hybrid Equipment

When transitioning all or parts of your fleet to non-diesel alternatives, it’s important to understand the different technologies available.

Electric Equipment

Electric versions of construction equipment are increasingly outperforming their diesel counterparts in several categories. Aerial lifts, small excavators and utility vehicles are prime examples where electric machinery offers superior efficiency and performance. 

The benefits of electric power are also evident in smaller tools, such as drills and saws, which benefit from quieter operation, zero emissions at the point of use and enhanced controllability.

Diesel Equipment

Despite the recent improvements in electric technology, diesel equipment remains the only practical option for certain heavy-duty applications. Large excavators, bulldozers and dump trucks, which require extended operation times and high torque, often rely on diesel power. 

The current limitations of electric alternatives for such heavy machinery include not just subpar performance but also the charging infrastructure, which may not yet support the high energy demands or rapid recharging necessary for uninterrupted work. 

Hybrid Equipment

Hybrid equipment offers a unique compromise, combining the benefits of electric propulsion with the extended range and power of diesel engines. By integrating both power sources, hybrid models can significantly reduce emissions and fuel consumption compared to traditional diesel machines, without sacrificing performance. 

This makes them particularly suited for applications where the operational flexibility of diesel is needed but with a greener footprint. Examples of hybrid machinery on the market include backhoe loaders, wheel loaders and excavators. 

Cost Comparison

Cost considerations when choosing between electric and diesel construction equipment include initial investments, operating costs and potential long-term savings. Generally, electric equipment commands a higher upfront cost due to advanced battery technology and electric drivetrains. However, these initial costs are offset by lower operating expenses. 

Electric equipment benefits from significantly reduced fuel costs, as electricity is cheaper and more stable in price compared to diesel. Additionally, electric equipment tends to have lower maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts and less wear and tear.

Conversely, diesel equipment, while often less expensive to purchase, incurs higher operating costs over its lifetime. The fluctuating price of diesel fuel can dramatically affect operating budgets, and diesel engines require regular maintenance, including oil changes and filter replacements, which can accumulate substantial expenses over time.

Industry Trends

The construction industry is gradually shifting towards electrification, with an increasing portion of equipment becoming all-electric or hybrid.

In the US, the rate of electrification is picking up speed, though this transition is happening more quickly in Europe. Countries like Sweden and Norway are leading the way globally, with the highest percentages of electric construction equipment, due to ambitious national goals for reducing carbon emissions.

In Asia, countries like China and Japan are also making significant headway toward electrification.

Maintenance of Electric Construction Equipment

Maintenance of electric construction equipment can pose different challenges compared to traditional diesel equipment. 

The most common issues with electric machines concern battery health and electrical systems. Battery life, capacity and efficiency are crucial, and these components require regular monitoring and occasional replacement. 

While electric equipment maintenance tends to be more straightforward compared to diesel machines, it involves a different skill set and attention to components not found in diesel models.

Integrating Electric Equipment Into Your Fleet

To integrate electric equipment into your fleet, start by identifying machines that offer the most benefits over their diesel counterparts, such as those used in environments where noise and emissions are a concern. Scissor lifts, small excavators and utility vehicles are ideal candidates due to their lower maintenance needs when electrified.

As you go about this process, there are several obstacles you may face. For starters, the upfront cost of electric equipment is often higher, requiring careful planning. 

Charging infrastructure is another critical factor. The availability of charging stations and the capacity to install them on-site or nearby must be considered. Additionally, the operational range of electric machines and the time required for charging need to be matched with the project demands to avoid downtime.

Adopting a phased approach, starting with vehicles and equipment that are most cost-effective and beneficial to electrify, is usually the best way to achieve the electrification of your fleet.

Final Thoughts

The shift to electric and hybrid equipment is becoming increasingly relevant as the construction industry moves towards a more sustainable and efficient future. This transition not only addresses environmental issues but also offers performance advantages and potential cost savings. The EquipmentShare Shop offers a growing inventory of OEM and aftermarket parts for electric equipment. Search our extensive online parts catalog to find exactly what your machine needs. Don’t see the part you’re looking for? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts and get personalized assistance.

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