Electrification of Heavy Equipment

Building and ground works are super energy intensive. The mass that needs to moved to construct a building in concrete, steel other materials is immense. With climate change raising the ocean level many coastal regions will try to at least temporarily keep the water at bay by piling up more defences on existing structures. In Holland the Afsluitdijk is already being fortified.

Like the change to electric cars which opens up many advantages, the move to electrify the heavy equipment used in activities like the above will have many. Vibrating engines are bound to destroy themselves eventually, so they are build quite heavy, they have many parts and require constant maintenance (even though diesel engines are reliable). In some cases its hard to even perform maintenance because the work site is remote. Electric motors require almost no maintentenance, and they seem to require less resources to make.

Other advantageous aspects are the noise and the pollution. Out somewhere where nobody lives you can have a motor belching soot and even feel good about it, but increasingly people object to it, not the least the operator that has to suffer the pollution daily. Life can improve for all by not using diesel fueled equipment.

Luckily several if not all companies that build diesel equipment are now looking into and even offering electric machines. The brands that have them are:

Volvo mini shovels and digging machines

Caterpillar Mining trucks and 25 ton digging equipment




Companies that already use electric excavators are Van Oord which uses the 20 Ton Caterpillar electric digger. ABB is urging every mining company to go electric. This drive for sustainability and electrification will bring down cost and environmental damage even if mining does mess up nature (in some cases extremely as you can see below).

I think the next move has to be to stop powering electric vehicles with remote electric power sources like gas plants or nuclear reactors. The reason is again cost cutting. Now you have machines and batteries that are the working capital of a company, but what if the company also includes solar panels in a mobile form. Many of the electric machines have replaceable batteries, meaning they can be working continuously only switching batteries that can charge off line.

I think especially for big projects that take decades to complete it can be wise to use solar. In Holland the coming works to protect the country from the sea (for the time being) will go on for many years. It makes sense to investigate if the works can be powered by local floating solar farms, because those have a one time cost and then can last for 30 years. Diesel needs to be bought repeatedly from unreliable markets. If for example dutch companies that work on dikes etc. are asked to add a floating solar plant next to the place they are working they can take the plant with them by moving it from time to time. They can then work almost without cost until the equipment breaks down! That means Holland can be protected at a marginal cost and very high reliability.