Electrification of Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) – Necessity
As the awareness of the environment increases, governments worldwide are facing increasing pressure from the public for environmental protection. This burning issue is also affecting the off-highway business. Stricter restrictions for heavy machinery and equipment are evolving on a worldwide and even regional level, like the 2018 EU OHV regulations. Governments are also providing huge leverage through subsidies.
By 2030, the global electric off-highway industry is expected to reach $30 billion. As battery costs and high voltage components are reduced, electrification becomes a more desirable option.
OEMs, including Komatsu (PC30E-5 mini excavators), Volvo CE (ECR25 Electric and L25 Electric.), JCB, John Deere, and others, are already producing electric off-highway machinery in response to these market changes. In addition, many OEMs have formed alliances with component suppliers who focus their research and development efforts on electrification solutions.
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure will also be critical to its adoption. As a result, many OEMs are helping to expand charging infrastructure. For example, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has announced a partnership to build “Electric Island,” a vast public charging station for medium and heavy-duty electric commercial vehicles.
Even when new electric vehicles and equipment emerge on the market, electrification is still a long way ahead. As manufacturers attempt to improve current designs, real-world testing will be a crucial part of the process. For example, The Department of Sanitation in New York City is testing the LR Electric trucks. In 2020, Southern California Edison (SCE) will get a Freightliner Cascadia battery-electric vehicle for testing.
Benefits of Electrification:
- Long-term Expenditure Saving:
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is less for a Battery electric vehicle than for an Internal Combustion engine. According to McKinsey, Electric vehicle saves 21% of TOC. This is mainly due to a decrease in operating costs, lower maintenance, and higher efficiency of an electric engine.
- Less noise pollution:
Noise pollution is significantly high in the construction business, causing unwanted noise for the surrounding population and construction workers. Construction workers exposed to noise levels over 85 decibels for more than 8 hours may experience health risks.
- Ease of Usage:
An electric powertrain has unlimited speed ranges. This enables them to do finer and more precise control, and in combination with hydraulic differential steering, it provides a good speed and radius control.
- Fewer Emissions:
It doesn’t rely on conventional fuels, and it does not produce any emissions following sustainability practices. This is crucial as the regulations are tightening, and electric engines are the most efficient way out in the current scenario for the manufacturers.
- Reduced heat in mines:
Working in severe mining conditions typically requires considerable ventilation and cooling equipment. However, as emissions are minimised, the requirement for ventilation and cooling is reduced, lowering customer costs even further.
However, there are considerable obstacles in the way of electrification:
- Charging downtime is a significant impediment in the sector. The usage time for many types of off-highway equipment is inconsistent and often abrupt.
- Electric equipment or machinery has a higher initial cost than ordinary machinery.
- Early adoption will be hampered by a lack of charging infrastructure and regional technical capabilities. (Worksite isolation, unreliable access to electricity, etc.)
- Regular charging is insufficient since the performance requirements necessitate a very high voltage for charging.
- Components are scarce.
- An electric engine cannot maintain a high energy output indefinitely.
- Currently, the industry is gradually responding to the changes brought about by electrification. Electric tractors, excavators, wheel loaders, micro trucks, and forklifts are all being steadily introduced by manufacturers.
However, we have a long way to go because an electric engine’s power density is insufficient. As a result, we have a hybrid machinery option.
What is Hybrid machinery?
It consists of a small diesel engine coupled with an electric motor. This makes it perfect for high-intensity jobs and places where low emissions are required.
On the other hand, hybrid machinery uses traditional or alternative fuels yet emits less pollution and is more efficient. It can also recover and store energy that could be lost as heat. As a result, there are numerous business applications, and we can regard hybrids as a step toward electric engines.
The future is electric, but there are enormous design, production, and adoption hurdles. Compared to passenger and commercial vehicles, the adoption of electrification in heavy and off-highway machinery is substantially lower. While present electrification technology is insufficient for all segments, it can be applied to those with predictable usage patterns. Various technologies, such as autonomy, artificial intelligence, and coupled electro-hydraulic actuators, can be incorporated with electric machinery. Electric Off-Highway machinery will become a reality as technology advances. All parties, including operators, OEMs, and suppliers, must consider commercial and operational strategies to capture a significant market share in this arena.