More and more companies want to work with machines that are emission-free or at least with lower emissions. The coming years, the focus will be on biofuels and hybrid or full electric machines and will look at what opportunities hydrogen offers. For now, electrically powered equipment is making the biggest leap towards an emission-free future. And rightly so, because in a few years’ time the entire construction sector and related industries should be able to operate with low emissions.
If we want to work climate neutral in a few years, we have to start now. With the use of more electric machines being an important first step. While machines with fuel engines are easy to refill with readily available products, this is much more difficult for electric machines. Not only do they need a lot of power, it also has to be stored in batteries of limited capacity in the meantime. So the real story begins when those batteries need to be recharged.
Because where, when and how can you do that most efficiently? What users of electrically powered machines need is an understanding of the charging infrastructure needed. Let us take a look at what that might look like.
All those batteries require a lot of power
Even mini excavators often have several batteries on board to run a full working day (6-8 hours). With large machines, this can be as much as battery packs of a cubic metre size, sometimes even two. That is quite a weight and we therefore often see these battery packs replacing the place of the usual ballast.
To charge all those batteries requires a lot of power, often more than the normal power grid can supply. The majority of smaller electric machines are simply charged at or near the workshop. For a single machine this is usually not a problem, but with several
machines, you quickly run into limits. The ordinary electricity grid is not designed to take on so much power at once, not even when we are talking about a heavier power connection (3-phase, 400V).
From there, it makes sense to start investing in thoughtful charging infrastructure. What are the steps to take?
- Identify energy needs
- Discover the benefits of remote monitoring
- Opt for fixed or mobile charging solutions
- Make use of knowledge and expertise
Identify energy needs
The first step is to determine the energy demand on the construction site. In doing so, it is important to not only take the machines into account, but also other aspects such as temporary accommodation and lighting. This gives a good insight into the basic energy supply at the project level
and therefore help plan the energy needed. Site preparation or otherwise difficult-to-reach places often require the use of a lot of construction equipment without available facilities such as electrical infrastructure. Those facilities are often installed once the heavy work is done. That is clearly not the right order. Until then, we will have to solve the problem ourselves and deploy smart tools to keep the batteries of our electric machines charging. Because: using the trusty diesel generator is no longer acceptable.
Discover the benefits of remote monitoring
Once the mapping has been completed and the construction site is set up, it is wise to start working with remote monitoring:
- It makes it possible to monitor the energy supply anywhere and anytime (via mobile, tablet or PC)
- It then ensures timely intervention if something goes wrong
- It gives real-time insight into performance of machines
- It contributes to a more sustainable and efficient layout of a construction site with fewer emissions
Opt for fixed or mobile charging solutions
Recent development is that of ‘construction hubs’, temporary sites that act as intermediate stages in large construction projects. Often found on the outskirts of cities. These construction hubs are convenient places to charge electric machines and battery containers. Such construction hubs are also emerging at infrastructure projects in the form of container parks. Those containers full of batteries can be charged via heavy electricity connections. When these are not available, the battery containers can be charged during the day using solar and wind energy. Solar panels on the roofs of sheds, offices, warehouses can be a step in the good direction.
More mobile charging solutions
The further away from civilisation the trickier charging becomes. Innovative are the trucks with large folding screens full of solar panels. These trucks charge battery containers during the day so that they can recharge machines’ batteries on site at night. When the construction site can be reached easily battery containers can be transported directly by lorry with a hook-lift system to the machines and returned to a fixed charging point connected to the electricity network.
Because it isn’t efficient to return all electric machines to the container park at the end of each day, all kinds of mobile solutions have been devised, from a tracked dumper with battery pack to compact battery packs. There are also already several excavators with interchangeable battery packs, from a single battery with matching exchange trolley to cubic metre large that the excavator can unload and load.
Increasingly, manufacturers are developing matching battery packs for their machines. Such as Bouwpowerr (Ahlmann) or Power Box (ETEC).
Loading more than one machine at a time
Boels has a very practical solution for a common problem. More and more battery-powered machines can be found on construction sites. These are usually plugged in simultaneously at night into random sockets to charge. This can lead to excessive peak load, causing the fuses of one or
several groups to blow. The result is noticeable the next morning: empty or half-full batteries, resulting in limited working hours with these machines.
Not very convenient. The Load Balancer is a mobile charging station with nine reels, each with a ten-metre-long cable. The Load Balancer can load up to nine machines simultaneously. The balancer ensures that all batteries are charged in doses. The total required power is automatically
distributed and if the load on one or more power points unexpectedly becomes too high, the intelligent system of the Load Balancer temporarily switches these reels off and on again at a calmer time. So that work can start immediately the next morning.
Make use of knowledge and expertise
It has been said and written before: renting is simply a smart and quick way to start working with electric machines. With regard to charging infrastructure, Boels can provide a complete solution. When customers ask for their projects to be carried out as sustainably as possible or all kinds of requirements around sustainability are put on the table during a tender, Boels’ advisors can ensure that suitable rental solutions are available.