Volvo Construction Equipment [Volvo CE], a major international company that develops, manufactures and markets equipment for construction and related industries, has partnered up with Californian property firm Baltic Sands to pilot two of its compact electric machines in order to gauge how they perform in a remote and challenging desert environment.
The machine models tested as part of the partnership include the ECR25 Electric excavator and L25 Electric wheel loader.
Baltic Sands specialises in environmentally sensitive, luxury off-grid property development and real estate, developing homes with a focus on sustainability. It mostly works in remote desert locations where power, water and utilities are largely inaccessible.
Getting around the lack of a power grid out in these remote environments presents immense challenges when it comes to charging electrically powered equipment for use on development sites, but it is a challenge that Baltic Sands company director Jacques Marais relishes.
Marais commented: “I started out in construction in my late 20s on large earthmoving projects, but the denuding of vegetation and trees never felt right.
“I tussled with the idea of earning a decent living while at the same time realising my responsibilities to the environment. This pilot project with Volvo CE allowed us to pursue the ideal of being more ecologically friendly through the adoption of new technologies.”
The successful pilot project for the machines was launched with help from a $2 million grant provided by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, geared toward accelerating the deployment of carbon neutral technologies for off-road mobile equipment. The construction industry is currently one of the largest contributors of nitrogen oxide emissions in the area, which encompasses Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and the Riverside counties.
Throughout the trial of Volvo CE’s electric machines, which were used by Baltic Sands for development work on remote sites in Southern California, Marais and his team were impressed by how the machinery performed, working effectively to complete eco-friendly tasks on site during each day of the trial.
Marais also believes that the green machines performed just as well as their diesel counterparts with regard to productivity.
He said: “In my opinion, they perform equally in terms of productivity. They are extraordinary, and they surprised us. In fact, we’d love to have these machines working all the time.”
The installation of a planned solar array also proved beneficial to the trial, by enabling the machines to remain powered overnight and during lunch hour, thereby ensuring that tasks were completed more quickly and efficiently.
All in all, Volvo CE and Baltic Sands believe that the successful trial of eco-friendly electric machines in such testing conditions bodes well for their potential future use in urban locations.
The fact that the green machines also give off less noise and vibration brings added benefit to those using them, and this is something that the Baltic Sands team noticed during the trial. Many of the personnel who used the machines reported that they experienced less fatigue and were able to speak to colleagues on site while operating machinery without needing to shout above the noise.
Aaron Anderson, dealer sales representative at Volvo CE, commented: “With these electric machines, noise isn’t a factor — you can talk to an operator as if he or she is standing right next to you. Maintenance hasn’t really been a factor either. These machines were up to par for sure.”
Meanwhile, Marais is already excited about trialling the equipment again in future, with Volvo CE planning another test run with the two electrical units supplied with a battery pack to help make charging even simpler. He and his senior leadership team are also exploring how to integrate electric machines into Baltic Sands' existing diesel-dominated fleet, to gauge how both types of machine could be used together.
Marais said: “This is where ideology meets reality. I am mindful of that and hoping that as early adopters to electromobility, we get it right. I'm pretty excited about getting that under our belt and seeing what the future holds for our company.”