DTechEx’s report “Electric Vehicles in Construction 2022-2042” is a deep dive into the world of off-road zero emission construction machinery; the report explores the electrification efforts of key players operating in the construction machine market, highlighting technical and economic considerations of powertrain electrification over the diverse range of mobile construction machines, including excavators, loaders, cranes, and telehandlers. The report details a long-term 20-year outlook for the sector, with IDTechEx’s independent sales, battery demand and market revenue forecasts for electric construction vehicles out to 2042 and broken down by region (China, US, Europe, RoW).
Construction machines are responsible for around 400 Mt of CO2 emission annually, which is around 1.1% of global CO2 emission. Decarbonisation of the construction industry will be a key element of countries meeting their Paris agreement commitments, and electric construction vehicles will play an important role in this. While the off-road electric construction vehicle market is at a much earlier stage of development than the on-road electric vehicle markets, there is increasing effort within the space to deliver zero emission solutions, with a growing number of prototypes. Key players battling in the arena include Volvo, Komatsu, Hyundai, Caterpillar, JCB and more.
Electrification Led by Compact Machines, Larger Machines to Follow
The electrification of construction vehicles is being led by the electrification of small compact machines including mini-excavators, small wheel loaders and dump trucks, primarily because these machines are deployed in urban environments, and cities are increasingly looking to lower exhaust emissions and noise. Their use in smaller projects means their daily duty cycle is lighter than larger machines, meaning the power demand can be met with a practical size of li-ion battery and electric motor.
Volvo Construction Equipment has already committed to move its entire range of compact wheel loaders and compact excavators to electric powertrains, completely stopping the development of new diesel models. We expect other OEMs will follow suit. Development work is also being conducted by many OEMs for the electrification of larger construction machines, although most are still in a prototyping or piloting phase, with the high upfront CAPEX cost meaning they are not yet a viable commercial product.
Electrification of Mini-Excavators
Source: IDTechEx “Electric Vehicles in Construction 2022-2042”
Local Air Quality Regulations a Primary Driver
Reducing carbon emissions is important and is spurring major construction companies to make large commitments (e.g. Volvo CE are targeting their entire rolling fleet to have net-zero emission by 2050), however meeting local air quality standards is also a key driver for construction electrification. Many cities are looking to either ban or charge for operation of heavily polluting vehicles in urban environments, through the introduction of low emission zones. This could be a mechanism to incentivise zero-emission machines by adding substantial cost to construction projects that continue to rely on only diesel equipment.
For example, Oslo, Norway, will require all municipal construction sites to operate emission free vehicles by 2025, moving to all construction projects by 2030. This has spurred the development of many of the heavy-duty electric construction vehicle prototypes in Europe. We expect other cities to follow suit in future, though likely with less aggressive timelines.
Multitude of Performance Benefits for Electrification
Electrification has the potential to greatly improve the working environment for machine operators, with lower noise and vibration and reduced exposure to pollutants. The elimination of exhaust pollutants enables electric vehicles to operate in indoor environments, particularly useful for demolition projects, whilst noise reduction offers the possibility to improve on site communication, improving site safety, as well as potentially enabling site operations to continue outside of normal daytime working hours.
Generally electric powertrains provide superior vehicles, with lower maintenance and servicing costs, that are more straightforward to operate, and which facilitate precise autonomous controls, with the battery efficiently powering computers and sensors.