Monday, December 6

An increasingly electrified construction industry

Today there is a marked tendency to electrify everything, that is, to replace machines and devices that use some fuel to obtain the power they need to function, with others that use electricity. And this is having a major impact on many aspects of our daily lives.

This change seems very positive to us, mainly due to the fact that, as a general rule, a device that uses electricity will be more energy efficient than its fuel counterpart, although there are some exceptions. The fact is that this trend is accelerating and will surely impose perhaps unforeseen pressures on the demand for electricity, which will grow at a significantly higher rate than that of the population. And the only way to face this challenge without causing problems in the service to users, will be by contemplating the reinforcement of the transmission and distribution lines, making changes to the current configuration of the networks, and incorporating generation sources, especially clean and renewable. , which are now also the lowest cost, thus helping to increase competitiveness.

The bigger a machine, and the harder the work it does, the higher its power demand will be, making it difficult to meet it with electricity. This is particularly relevant in the construction industry, which regularly uses machines of the full range of sizes, from very small tools to gigantic excavators or mining trucks. Despite the technological challenges, the industry is moving fast in the direction of electrification.

Volvo Construction Equipment has just launched on October 7 three new electric machines, two excavators and a wheel loader, which, added to the two it already had, now offers five 100 percent electric machines, with which, according to has said its president Melker Jernberg, “it has the widest range of electrical machines in the industry”, in addition to considering that in this journey towards electromobility, climate change is the biggest challenge they face.

The German Wacker Neuson, manufacturer of small and medium equipment for construction, launched in August a new series of vibratory compactor plates, which includes three electric models, to achieve a completely emission-free work, which also represents energy savings of around 70 percent. In addition, its equipment incorporates a battery of modular design, replaceable without tools, which can be interchanged with other electrical machines of the same or even other brands. This will undoubtedly lead to greater ease of operation, eliminating the use, storage, and management of hazardous materials and substances on sites, while also having a beneficial impact on the health and safety of construction workers, and eliminating other associated risks. .

In Las Vegas, during ConExpo 2020, CASE presented an electric backhoe loader, which not only offers the advantage of zero emissions, but also has lower daily operating costs than similar ones of the same brand, which run on diesel. In January of this year, this machine was honored with the award for good design, awarded by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and the Metropolitan Arts Press, which recognize the most innovative and revolutionary industrial, product and graphic designs in the world. .

JCB, another relevant company in the sector, presented its first telescopic handler at the end of 2020, and a construction ‘dumper’, a kind of motorized wheelbarrow for internal movement of materials, completely electric.

The Chinese Sany unveiled last year two models of huge mining trucks, which in addition to being electric, are operated remotely without the need for crew members. These technological advances provide greater safety to both the equipment and the workers who operate them in these very high-risk environments.

So the construction industry is moving, and moving fast, in the right direction to achieve decarbonisation within a reasonable time frame. This industry is so vast that it will be necessary to further increase the speed of technological advances, at the same time as portable battery charging units with renewable energy are being developed, which can be very useful in remote regions where there are no electricity grids. , but not reliable sources of fuel supply, and solve other logistical and operational obstacles. The climate emergency we are facing forces us to focus on these types of solutions, which will be the standard in the near future.

Raúl Asís Monforte González.

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