Electric excavators indicate new wave of construction equipment

By |  April 13, 2021
Photo: Komatsu

Komatsu will utilize Proterra’s battery systems for the development of a proof-of-concept electric excavator in 2021, with commercial production expected to begin in 2023 or 2024. Photo: Komatsu

Construction equipment manufacturers continue to make strides toward a low-emissions future.

Within the last few months, Komatsu and Volvo Construction Equipment each shared details on cutting-edge projects involving the electrification of excavators. While their developments are not yet available to the market, their work illustrates what’s likely coming to the construction equipment world in the next few years.

New at Komatsu

Komatsu and Proterra, a developer of vehicle electrification technology, established a partnership to leverage Proterra’s battery technology for the development of Komatsu’s first battery-electric middle-class hydraulic excavator.

According to Proterra, Komatsu will utilize its high-performance battery systems for the development of a proof-of-concept electric excavator in 2021, with commercial production expected to begin in 2023 or 2024.

The Proterra battery system is designed to reach high-energy density and fast-charging technology, the company says, and it’s customizable to fit within a variety of vehicles.

The packaging flexibility of the battery platform aims to enable the optimal placement of batteries within the middle-class excavator and replace the need for a normal counterweight used to balance the excavator’s hydraulic arm movements, according to Proterra.

The collaboration marks Proterra’s entry into the off-road vehicle market and its first battery-electric construction equipment.

“As more communities embrace a zero-emission future, Proterra is excited to partner with Komatsu to develop battery-electric construction equipment,” says Jack Allen, CEO of Proterra. “Proterra’s best-in-class battery technology has been proven in 16 million miles driven by our fleet of transit vehicles. What’s working in our battery-electric transit vehicles on roads across North America can work off-road, too.

Photo: Volvo CE

The 14-ton EX03 prototype is equipped with a battery pack from Volvo Trucks. Photo: Volvo CE

New at Volvo CE

Volvo CE, meanwhile, unveiled its first electric prototype in the mid-size excavator range.

With low noise, zero exhaust emissions and reduced maintenance needs, Volvo CE says its EX03 wheeled prototype represents the future for safer and more environmentally responsible jobsites.

“This prototype is a significant step forward in the evolution of medium electric construction machines,” says Inwoo Kim, program manager for advanced engineering at Volvo CE. “As our first electric excavator concept in the mid-size range, we have been quick to build and expand on our existing electromobility technology.”

According to Volvo CE, the EX03 prototype represents the next stage in its electromobility journey, following previous iterations of the smaller, fully electric EX02 concept electric excavator. While the EX03 is still in the concept stage with no current plans to bring it to market, the company is planning to test a similar version of the EX03 in customer pilots.

Supported by technology from across the Volvo Group, the 14-ton EX03 is equipped with a battery pack from Volvo Trucks and boasts the same performance level as a diesel machine of the same class, Volvo CE says. The prototype aims to deliver zero emissions, higher efficiency, lower noise levels and reduced total cost of ownership compared to its conventional counterparts.

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