At Whitaker Construction, we're responsible for building critical infrastructure for cities and communities. Historically, we have relied on heavy machinery powered by gas and diesel fuel. However, as the world faces the urgent need to address climate change, the construction sector is undergoing a significant transformation toward sustainability. A pivotal aspect of this shift is the adoption of electric heavy equipment. There are many advantages and disadvantages to this emerging technology, so let's take a look at some of them.
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What Are The Advantages?
Environmental Impact: One of the most critical reasons for embracing electric heavy equipment is its substantial reduction in environmental impact. By transitioning to electric alternatives, construction companies like us can significantly decrease our carbon footprint, mitigating harmful emissions and improving local air quality. This shift aligns with global initiatives to combat climate change and supports a more sustainable future. When it comes to the environment, we're always striving to be innovative and mindful of our footprint.
Noise Reduction: Electric construction equipment operates more quietly than its gas and diesel competition. Noise pollution from job sites can be a significant issue depending on where the work is being performed. Electric machines, with their quieter operation, alleviate this problem, creating a more harmonious environment for workers and local residents.
Cost Efficiency: While the upfront investment in electric heavy equipment may be higher, the long-term cost savings are worthy of mention. Electric machinery tends to have lower operating and maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts and less frequent servicing needs. Moreover, as the world transitions towards renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, the cost of electricity is expected to decrease, making electric heavy equipment a potential financially-viable choice. Time will be the biggest factor in whether or not the cost efficiency will play out like most people predict that it will.
Technological Advancements: The growing interest in electric heavy equipment is accompanied by technological advancements. These machines often come equipped with state-of-the-art features, such as smart technology for monitoring performance, better efficiency, and increased safety measures. This not only enhances productivity but also ensures a safer working environment. While gasoline and diesel equipment are usually able to be retrofitted with similar technology, the user experience or cost to do so may be more frustrating than just having the new technology come integrated from the factory.
Operating Environment: Gasoline and diesel equipment can sometimes be loud, rough, and taxing to operate all day long. Electric equipment alleviates much of this by being quiet and providing an easier environment to be in for long periods of time for an operator. This can have positive effects on mental and physical health.
Power: Most of us have seen the videos of electric cars embarrassing otherwise fast cars in drag races on YouTube. It's no secret that electric power is instant and the torque that is created can be monstrous. This is a huge advantage for heavy equipment as what they do all day long is dig, push, haul, pull, and move material and items. Gasoline and diesel equipment still make tons of power and torque, but the instantaneous nature of electric offers a compelling argument to this.
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What Are Some Of The Challenges?
Infrastructure: The need for charging infrastructure at construction sites is a crucial consideration. Companies need to plan for adequate charging stations and power supply to ensure seamless operations. The nature of work that Whitaker Construction is in frequently puts us in remote places with a lack of infrastructure to support such needs. This is a big concern that would have to have a solution.
Battery Technology: Continuous advancements in battery technology are necessary to improve the efficiency and range of electric heavy equipment. Research and development in this area are essential for further adoption.
Charging Time: This is a similar problem that many owners of electric vehicles face every day. If the need arises to have to work unexpectedly or past a certain time, the charging time would take precedence before the piece of equipment would be fully operational. Charging the large battery packs that would be necessary to move such heavy equipment all day would take a considerable amount of time.
Initial Investment: The initial cost of electric heavy equipment can be higher than traditional machinery, requiring companies like ourselves to consider the long-term benefits and potential return on investment.
Resale: The perceived and actual value of used electric heavy equipment is to be determined. Often, after a certain amount of hours or years, gas and diesel equipment is then offered for sale, helping to recover some of the original investment and allowing other companies or people to get a better deal on a nice piece of equipment if they don't or cant buy new. Often with technology, resale is affected negatively as newer and more modern technology often replaces it quickly. Only time will tell if this challenge will hold true or not.
Repair and Maintenance: While it is true that electric vehicles and equipment may need less maintenance, they do still need some. Being a totally different system, additional training on safety and operations must be provided to all shop staff, including the purchase of any necessary equipment in order to work on them.
The Road Ahead
The transition to electric heavy equipment is an integral part of the broader movement toward sustainability in our industry. Embracing electric construction equipment as a whole could definitely help create a more sustainable, greener, and healthier world, and that is something that we can all benefit from. At Whitaker Construction, we Build the Best: People, Communities, Futures. As we continue moving forward, we will consider all relevant information as new electric equipment becomes more widely available and efficient. We look forward to where this technology is headed!