Get ready for the next wave in electric vehicles – tractors, airport vehicles and off-road construction equipment.
Research firm Interact Analysis says that electrification will be a crucial trend in off-highway vehicles. Stringent emissions standards coming into play in regions such as Europe, India and China will encourage electric equipment adoption.
Those areas already have launched plans to phase out diesel fuel, which runs the current generation of tractor and construction equipment. Parts of Europe plan to ban diesel and petrol cars starting as early as 2025. India has a 2030 goal, and China is planning for 2040, Interact Analysis said in a recent report.
“Ultimately, machine builders and engine manufacturers for vehicles such as bulldozers, excavators, loaders, telehandlers, aerial work platforms and lift trucks will be forced to respond as internal combustion engines are phased out,” Interact said.
Swedish truck and equipment maker Volvo Group already is pursuing an electrification strategy.
Earlier this year, the company’s Volvo Construction Equipment division unveiled an electric compact excavator and a wheel loader. Starting next year, Volvo will launch its range of electric compact excavators and wheel loaders. It will stop new diesel engine-based development of the models.
CALIFORNIA PUSHES AHEAD
California, which is using environmental regulations to push electric vehicles, is considering a new voucher incentive program dedicated to off-road, freight and cargo handling.
“It seems likely that this program will accelerate commercialization of zero-emission yard trucks, terminal tractors, cargo handlers, gantry cranes, etc. in California – and that will be noticed around the world,” said Stanley Young, spokesman for the California Air Resources Board.
Electrifying off-road equipment such as ground-service equipment for airports and cargo-handling equipment for ports, terminals and railyards is coming. It will also happen with construction equipment and transport refrigeration units, said Bill Van Amburg, senior vice president at Calstart. The Pasadena-based nonprofit provides clean-energy consulting services for the trucking and passenger vehicle industries.
“We are working on a lot of demonstration projects specifically around this sector,” Van Amburg told Trucks.com. “Some of the power systems and components are transferable from on-road platforms.”
HYBRID SYSTEM UTILITY
Hybrid systems for heavy-duty equipment will probably make more sense than pure electric vehicles, said Mike Ramsey, an automotive and transportation analyst at Gartner Inc.
“You would have to have a pretty giant battery to be useful,” Ramsey said.
Any global trend will likely start with lift trucks, according to Interact. That’s because forklift trucks are the biggest vehicle segment in terms of unit shipments, with nearly 1.5 million delivered globally in 2018.
They “are also forecast to have the highest adoption rate of electrification,” Interact said in its report.
ELECTRIC ADOPTION PACE
Lightweight equipment will adopt full-electric technology far faster. Interact forecasts medium and large vehicles to have an electric adoption rate of just under 15 percent in a decade.
“Off-highway vehicles is a conservative market, yet manufacturers should consider what the evidence shows: Electrification is an unstoppable trend, and it must be taken seriously,” said Jan Zhang, research director at Interact Analysis.
LOWER OPERATING COSTS
Interact Analysis said the long-term economic benefits of employing hybrid or all-electric powertrains are compelling for off-highway vehicle manufacturers.
“This is because electric motors do not require the same levels of service as internal combustion engines, such as oil or filter changes,” the firm said.
But such vehicles will cost more to purchase. Buyers must measure whether the total cost of ownership savings outweighs the higher initial outlays necessary for electric vehicles.
Charging infrastructure also is a “major challenge.”
Equipment sellers will have to develop a program that includes charging infrastructure, grid connections and consultation.
“This has opened new revenue streams,” Interact said. “The opportunity exists for machine builders or suppliers in the off-highway market to do similar by adopting a new business model.”
Manufacturers should start designing electric off-road equipment now to tap that market, the firm said.