Battery-powered vehicles now making inroads into plant equipment
Plant vehicles are typically heavy duty, being initially drawn on animal power, such as from horses. Since then, we’ve seen the invention of portable steam-powered engines, which led to internal-combustion engines running on kerosene and ethanol. Today, diesel engines are dominant, but these may soon be a thing of the past as battery-powered electric vehicles have materialised and are quickly becoming increasingly popular.
Following the introduction of Toyota’s first mass-produced Hybrid, and Tesla’s fully electric cars, we are now seeing an increasing number of mainstream car manufacturers introducing electric vehicles and hybrid cars in their product offerings.
When we think about plant equipment, it’s natural to visualise dirty, heavy-duty machinery, running inefficiently and notoriously environmentally damaging. It’s no surprise then that electrically powered plant vehicles are emerging, tackling many of these known issues.
Advantages of electric over diesel-run engines:
- There are numerous benefits that a battery-powered vehicle offers. One of the most obvious is that it is much cheaper to run, with less-frequent maintenance required compared with a diesel-powered engine. Some batteries for industrial machines promise zero operating and maintenance costs, eliminating downtime.
- Significantly reduced carbon emissions are much better for the environment. Studies have shown that, on average, electric vehicles emit almost three times less CO2 than equivalent petrol- or diesel-powered vehicles. Diesel, in particular, when burned, produces many harmful pollutants and emissions.
- Battery-powered engines allow for energy independence as electricity can be a renewable resource. This translates into considerable savings on fuel costs.
- Improved charging systems allow for opportunity to conveniently charge at commercially available charging stations.
- The latest battery-powered machinery, such as the lithium-ion battery system, has developed excellent autonomy. Designed to give machinery maximum uptime and clean, trouble-free operation without the need for frequent charging, some systems will even operate a full shift on one charge.
- Less noise pollution. Quieter than gas or diesel-run vehicles, battery-run plant equipment enables operators to work in built-up areas, even at night-time.
- Significant improvements can be seen in workplace health and safety due to low voltage, with some electric machinery operating at zero risk.
- New 3G systems allow for remote day-to-day control of the vehicle around the world, analysis of the machine’s performance for diagnosis, software updates and modifications to the battery settings.
If done well, as some of the plant vehicle manufacturers are proving, machinery can be 100% electric yet match the performance of other machinery that runs on an internal-combustion engine.
In Australia, many councils are already trialling battery-powered electric plant equipment, such as the Dulevo D.zero street sweeper, for their many clean benefits to the environment, energy efficiency, noise reduction as well as overall savings from maintenance and fuel costs.
We’ve come a very long way in the development of plant equipment — from horse, to steam and diesel, to electric-powered vehicles. It’s fair to say that this is just the beginning, as technological advances will further improve how we can become even more energy efficient and independent in the future. Stay tuned!
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