About one million forklifts made every year are going electric: over 60% are already. Forklifts change little: industry consolidation happened long ago so only a few businesses dominate. It is all a bit of a yawn but the rest of the industrial EV business is the exact opposite, changing rapidly with new types being invented all the time and supplier proliferation. IDTechEx finds that the construction, agriculture and mining part alone will be an $81 billion market in 2027 with considerable opportunities for consolidation of players and technological breakthroughs with major market disruption and creation.
Raghu Das, CEO, IDTechEx counsels, "The industrial EV business will rise to about $350 billion in 2027. Important value sectors will include military and forklifts but as technology is reinvented, fuel cell hybrids will stay a niche industrial business: they are struggling to gain more than 0.1% of forklift business for example. Hybrids based on batteries and supercapacitors and pure electric powertrains will be very popular indeed".
Industry fragmentation beyond forklifts means some components are proved and cost reduced in volume in on-road vehicles before adoption in off-road vehicles. However, off-road vehicles are more likely to have to provide power surges, be exceptionally rugged and reliable, cope with rough terrain and with being far from refuelling facilities. They are bought for benefits and cost-over-life rather than up front price. This leads to many technologies appearing first off-road where higher price can be tolerated. Nevertheless, investment in construction and mining is highly recession prone, impeding innovation in the bad years.
Electrics means tools on vehicles easily have swinging, dropping and braking energy turned back into electricity not wasted as heat. The full gamut of technology and opportunuity is covered in the IDTechEx report, Industrial and Commercial Vehicles on Land 2017-2027
Leap in performance
Let us consider examples of good practice. For search and rescue the all-terrain amphibious Vanquisher from Advanced System Design has local motors driving each of the independent four tracks giving vectored traction and steering, there is an autonomous option and advanced power electronics. ASD also offers derivative kits for making existing platforms electric in this advanced fashion. This vehicle will be exhibited and the company will speak at the "IDTechEx Show!" Berlin May 10-11 which has a conference, Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing that is uniquely future oriented even in the content from large companies such as Toyota and Daimler presenting this year. Appreciate the significance generally of the presentation "Sion: a Solar Car for Everyone" and on structural electronics instead of the tired old components-in-a-box approach. Uniquely, there are parallel conferences on enabling technologies from energy harvesting and energy storage to sensors, IOT and 3D printing. There is an exhibition with 200 stands and on May 9 and 12 there are 23 masterclasses teaching all aspects.
Let us look at more of the seminal advances coming along. The Huddig articulated hybrid electric wheel loader will be launched in 2018-9. It has near-wheel motors permitting vectored traction and steering so it does not damage road surfaces and copes better with slippery surfaces. It has 100% software controlled differential, individual control at each wheel, dynamic and static compensation control, electric engine boost, plug-in and a pure electric option for silent, zero pollution use for 10-20 km in cities and indoors. This give 65-80% fuel saving, energy recovery and more power.
Here comes the electric industrial site
Deloitte Touche has shown feasibility of electric mining communities with zero emissions and energy self-sufficiency based on wind turbines and solar panels. Giant trucks could be pure electric with 350kW battery swapping. Volvo is trialling hybrid wheel loaders and autonomous pure electric carriers. Indeed, Volvo's fully autonomous truck was first to be tested deep underground in the Kristineberg Mine; part of a development project aimed at improving the flow and safety. The truck covers seven kilometres, reaching 1,320 metres underground in the narrow mine tunnels where humans should not be going.
For mining, construction and other applications, Advanced System Design finds that an Automatic Guided Vehicle AGV, should optimally take two tonne cargo and use a supercapacitor for up to 10 km of continuous movement or 30 minutes operation: they last four times as long as batteries, charge 100 times as fast, have no problem with cold and handle fast charging and delivery of the necessary power surges better. Any greater range/ duration capability currently calls for hybrid electric but still with a supercapacitor as seen in their Vanquisher Search and Rescue Vehicle, they advise.
Most vehicles are electrifying for better performance, reliability and control of emissions. See the IDTechEx overview report, Electric Vehicles Will Change the World 2017-2037 with forecasts in 46 categories. Trends are to smart, connected, electric vehicles with energy independent vehicles EIV further along the line. See the IDTechEx report, Autonomous Vehicles Land, Water, Air 2017-2037 where IDTechEx agrees with BMW that autonomy hardware will be commoditised but the systems and software work will not. See the IDTechEx report, Energy Independent Electric Vehicles 2017-2037 .
Some light-duty, small wheel loaders and even small excavators are already pure electric. The larger wheel loaders and excavators are becoming hybrid electric including some at Komatsu, Volvo and Caterpillar. JCB, world number three in construction vehicle numbers, recently told IDTechEx that their customers are often constrained to working only a four hour day in cities due to noise and emissions from the diesel power but equivalent, almost-silent, zero-emission electric versions may be allowed to operate day and night giving much faster payback and less blocking of roads. Husqvana has coined the term "silent city" for where we are headed. There is steady progress to electrify seated lawn care machines for grass cutting, rolling, sod cutting and staff and equipment transit in parks, campuses and road verges. Ransomes Jacobsen industrial lawnmowers are based on diesel. Some are primitive hybrids with a separate lead-acid battery pack for the powertrain but with no pure electric mode. Drivers of further electrification include reduced/ zero emission, reliability, noise reduction and meeting "Stage 5 emission 2019" CO2 laws says the company. One of its smaller seated models is already pure electric for silent mowing of golf courses at night without disturbing local residents. Smaller autonomous lawnmowers are selling well thanks to Honda, John Deere and others.
The IDTechEx report, Agricultural Robots and Drones 2016-2026: Technologies, Markets,
and Players finds that vehicles for agriculture are undergoing a considerable transformation with a trend to autonomy and a debate about going from, "elephants to ants". Pure electric drones and wheeled robots are fine indoors for microfarming there needs to be more innovation in getting electricity to them in outdoor remote locations to enjoy greater precision, better driver environment and meet new emissions laws.
Near wheel motors are particularly favoured for the necessary vectored traction and steering but there are some in-wheel motors coming in too so, for example, an experimental Volvo excavator/ loader does the same job in a smaller footprint improving both cost and manoeuvrability. Switched reluctance traction motors are becoming popular off-road in LeTourneau monster loaders to John Deere agricultural vehicles. This is because they are rugged like the even-more-popular AC induction motors which are also advancing fast - the subject of one presentation at the forthcoming IDTechEx event. The reluctance rotor is not just free of magnets: it does not even need copper wire so the device can be very compact now that the challenges of the complex electronic controls needed with switched reluctance are overcome. The IDTechEx report, Electric Vehicle Energy Harvesting/ Regeneration 2017-2037 surprises with the number of new ways that electricity is being created using on-board equipment with more to come, from energy harvesting suspension to triboelectrics. Also see, Electric Motors for Electric Vehicles 2017-2027 .
Top image: Toyota