Volvo and Skanska take electric machinery to the next level

Dominik Vanyi

Publish date: September 19, 2018

The ‘Electric Site’ project will attempt to electrify a mining quarry thereby reducing emissions by 95% and proving that it is possible to electrify heavy machinery.

From August 29th, and for the subsequent 10 weeks, Volvo Construction Equipment, Skanska, the Swedish universities of Linköping and Mälardalen, and the Swedish Energy Agency are testing the concept of equipment electrification in a mining quarry. The project is expecting to see a 95% reduction in CO2 emissions and up to 25% in total cost of operations. If successful, this project could truly demonstrate the enormous potential electric machinery as a cost-effective method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in heavy industries.

During the project, Volvo CE will have the opportunity to test its electric machinery in a commercial setting, potentially paving the way for wider electrification of the mining industry, among other applications for heavy machinery. Skanska expects the output from Volvo’s prototypes to match the output from their conventional equipment[1].

This has wider implications in the sector of machinery electrification, which is generally considered to be one of the most cost-effective and efficient solutions to both reducing operating costs and environmental impacts simultaneously. The Committee for European Construction Manufacturers (CECE), states in its own report that: “[electrification] results in 100% local CO2 reduction, and 100% total co2 reduction When using renewable energy sources to produce the electricity. Even where this is not the case, reduction is still in the region of 10-15%”[2]. A recent Bellona report takes a closer look at the potential of electric machinery for construction and calls on public authorities to use their vast economic weight and purchasing power to help generate a market for cleaner and more efficient technologies in transport.

Non-Road Mobile Machinery is a source of noise, air, and climate pollution which remains widely unregulated. Yet, their size and presence in city centres contribute significantly to bad air quality and noise pollution. In terms of climate impact, many countries fail to account them properly under their UNFCCC reporting obligations, making it difficult to fully understand and adequately address their impact in national climate pledges (INDCs).

Nonetheless, in countries which do report emissions transparently, the figures are alarming, considering the fact that the issue is very much under the radar and machinery tends to have a longer lifespan than road vehicles. For example, in Finland, total emissions from transport are approximately 12.61 MtCO2e, whereas construction machinery alone is responsible 1.29 MtCO2e. In Sweden, where transport accounts for 16.89 MtCO2e, construction machinery is responsible for 1.3 MtCO2e.

The Electric Site project will hopefully turn the tide in helping to address this oversight by providing a cost-effective alternative to the use of conventionally-fuelled machinery whose external impacts are not only substantial, but avoidable. Such demonstrations are, moreover, instrumental in mobilising support for EU policies conducive of electrification in the construction industry. One such example being the currently revised Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD) which offers a once-in-a-decade opportunity to extend city governments’ procurement obligations to construction site machinery and equipment. This will push Member States to renew their machinery fleets with zero-emission models in a timely manner which is indispensable to comply with the Paris Agreement.

Read Bellona’s latest position paper on the inclusion of construction machinery in the CVD here.

[1] Electric Site Research Project | Volvo Construction Equipment Global