Living near a building site will no longer mean being woken up at the crack of dawn by such loud revving engines thanks to the electrification of construction vehicles. Future operators will soon be utilizing screens to control machines in a safer, calmer environment, and one day, machines could dig holes themselves as the industry advances and moves closer towards automation.
Hearing the birds sing whilst watching the new shopping center take shape reimagines city life. Noise pollution is one of the greatest contributors to the disruption that surrounds construction sites, but with the installation of batteries in the place of engines, this will soon be significantly improved.
Two of the most common machines to be electrified first are diggers and loaders, used on larger projects such as building foundations and bridges, or digging in mines. As some of the largest and, therefore, noisiest machines, this change will be noticeably beneficial across whole cities. Companies like Volvo are already on the way to mainstreaming these machines.
From a safety perspective, electrification of machinery is the best way forward. Operators will be able to better hear instructions from site leaders, whilst communication amongst workers will improve with less shouting over loud vibrations and hums of diesel engines. The experience of driving these machines will also become more pleasant, as noise-canceling headphones will no longer be necessary. Workers can be more in touch with the outside world and more aware of their surroundings to enjoy their time at work instead of feeling isolated.
Air quality in construction sites will always be an issue so long as diesel machines are present. It is particularly bad for those working on the site or for people passing by holding their breath as they walk. Electric vehicles can solve this problem.
Clearer air is not only beneficial for the health of workers but for the environment as well. When working in smaller spaces, such as indoors with mini excavators, ventilation systems would need to be employed to suck the diesel from the air. Making these machines electric will make sites cleaner and much more comfortable for everyone.
Taking a closer look inside the machines, Li-ion batteries used inside most electric machines are durable, with longer life and fewer costs involved with charging them up. Refilling diesel is a constant cost, especially in large vehicles. With the investment of switching to electric, builders will see a greater return for their money, and as prices of these batteries are predicted to decrease in the coming years, these machines will become even more cost-effective.
What does the future hold?
In the near future, we could see the installation of screen displays, providing an alternative to using eyesight alone to control the vehicles. Productivity can be maximized if workers have a clear all-round view of the area, without dust and fumes covering the windows. Cat are currently developing sensors for their machines that are able to detect when there are people surrounding the area, whilst Liebherr are installing 360 cameras with bird's eye views, bringing new levels of safety to construction.
Looking further ahead, this electrification and modernization of construction vehicles will enable automation of some tasks. It could be possible to program specific parameters of a task for a machine, such as digging holes or lifting materials, then sit back and allow the machine to complete the task seamlessly and safely. People could manage construction sites with their feet up behind a desk, watching their clever equipment do all the physical labor for them out in the cold weather.
Not only this, but the hydraulic systems used to move the tools of these large machines could be replaced with fully electric linear actuators. These would make machines much more robust and a lot cleaner, with no concerns about leakage or constant maintenance.
Companies are looking to start greater production of electric construction vehicles in the near future. In their report on the topic, IDTechEx predicts that electric machines will account for 750,000 construction vehicle sales per year by 2043, demonstrating just how game-changing this equipment is expected to be for the construction industry. Not only are they safer, allowing workers to hear each other and breathe cleaner air, but investment in these vehicles seems to be a smart business solution with greater long-term benefits.
For more information, visit IDTechEx's report "Electric Vehicles in Construction 2023-2043" for statistics, data and predictions for the market.
For more information on this report, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/EVConstruction, or for the full portfolio of EV research available from IDTechEx please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/EV. IDTechEx also offer access to their full portfolio of research through bespoke subscription services - visit www.IDTechEx.com/Subscriptions to find out more.