Electrification of construction machinery could cut energy use by 71% - major demonstration project launched

Electrification of construction machinery could cut energy use by 71% – major demonstration project launched

At the CCC Summit, the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA) announced an innovative demonstration project led by Volvo CE to ‘electrify a quarry’ by powering all the construction machines using electricity instead of diesel.

The Agency believes that the conversion to electrical power will reduce the amount of energy used by 71% and cut CO2 emissions in a typical quarry site from the current 0.7kg/ tonne of material produced down to 0.3 kg/ tonne. 

“This is a new step for the construction industry. We see great potential and are proud to be part of this unique project,” said Erik Brandsma, Director General of the SEA. If successful, the technology could be applied in large construction projects, waste recovery sites etc.

The SEA has estimated the energy consumption of construction equipment in Sweden at 14 Terawatthours  (TWh) compared to 19 TWh for trucks; 3.7 TWh for buses and 55 TWh for private cars (2010 figures). It is thus a significant part of the energy system and the climate challenge in Sweden. Electric-powered construction machines will also significantly reduce noise emissions which is a particular concern in the fast growing urban environment.

This encouraged the Agency to meet with Volvo CE to discuss the visionary idea of what would happen if electrical power was used instead of diesel in a typical quarry project.
 “We estimated that if we could electrify a number of the functions in the quarry, we could reduce energy use by 71% (in kWh). The intensity of the energy is much higher with electricity, that is why the potential savings are higher.”

This led to the development of the ‘electric construction site’ project involving SEA, Volvo CE, Skanska Sweden and two Swedish universities to test out this new vision for construction equipment.

“We estimate that in many applications excavators are sufficiently stable to be powered with electricity through cables. Crushers in our demonstration quarry could also get their power through cables. We could maybe develop plug-in hybrid solutions for haulers. Dumpers could be fully electrified with batteries, leading to the possibility of fully autonomous, driverless dumpers guided by computer,” Brandsma explained.

The project will cost some SEK 203 million (EUR 21.65 million) with Volvo CE investing some SEK 129 million and receiving a further grant from the SEA of SEK 59 million. It is due to be completed in 2018. 

Volvo CE has already been working on many of the technologies that will be utilised and the concepts will be taken forward in conjunction with researchers at Linköpings universitet and Mälardalens högskola. Skanska Sweden is also contributing SEK 9 million to the project and will incorporate the results into its operations in 2017 to test their viability in practice.

“This project involves creating new concepts which are part of our long-term future vision,” commented Anders P. Larsson, executive vice president of Volvo CE’s Technology function. “The work that we’ll do over the next few years has the potential to change the entire construction industry.”