Electric Excavators & Skid Steers: The Future of the Heavy Machine Industry

Manufacturers compete to secure market shares for electric powered heavy machines based on battery life, battery replacement cost and operation duration on single charges

The entire construction machine manufacturing sector is focused on the electric construction equipment segment due to the waves that these machines are making. This became evident at the Bauma 2022 construction equipment and technology expo which saw most major manufacturers showcasing electric excavators, dumpers and skid steers among others.

Among the reasons that have been cited by market analysts and observers on the change of focus or emphasis given by leading manufacturers towards electric powered machines include the significantly lower cost, easier maintenance, low noise and the ability of electric machines to be used in urban areas that are subject to strict emission regulations.

Leading manufacturers such as Volvo, Komatsu, Hyundai, Bobcat, Kubota, and Caterpillar among others showcased their prototype and ready for market versions of electric or battery powered excavators, compact track loaders and skid steers at the recent international construction expo in Munich, Bauma 2022.

The wave of manufacturers moving towards electrified machines is however hindered or rather riddled with obstacles mainly pertaining to the cost of the batteries and its duration of use on a single charge and the total number of times that the battery may be charged and used before it is completely depleted.

The cost of the batteries based on market reports indicate that the cost of the battery makes up approximately 30 % of the machine cost which is high and customers tend to naturally expect these batteries to last.

This is true especially within the scope of construction equipment rental service providers. These companies that let out electric mini excavator hire and skid steer loaders expect the return on investments to be at a certain percentage based on their rental prices and if this mark is not met, they will certainly look at other options such as hybrids which have also gained prominence within the construction equipment rental spectrum.

Manufacturers such as Doosan for instance introduced an fully electric compact track loader at Bauma along with a promising mini electric excavator that is able to operate for up to six hours on a single charge, whereas Komatsu offers a mini excavator that is able to function for up to 7 hours on a single charge, however, the question remains how long till the battery is depleted as each have estimates that compromise power and frequency of charging.

Nevertheless, fully electric powered machines have become more preferable as the benefits of electric construction machines simply outshine internal combustion and hybrid machines.

From zero carbon emissions, to low noise levels and vibration make these machines are simply perfect for urban construction projects and added to the fact that a single charge of the lithium-ion batteries for the machine costs no more than a dollar compared to the price of a gallon of diesel reduces project operating costs significantly in the long run.

Electric machines have also been found to be the healthier option for operators that would no longer have to contend with the long-term effects of vibration, noise and dangerous fumes emitted by conventional machines.

However, the primary reason as to why industry players prefer electric machines are mainly because of the fact that these machines have been designed with fewer numbers of parts and do not use traditional hydraulic systems which are expensive to maintain and replace.

This basically means significantly lower operational costs compared to combustion machines which are slowly being phased out based on current industry trends