Excavators: First Wave of Electrification (2023)

Mini excavators have become a part of many job sites and a staple in most OEM’s offerings due to customers recognizing good production for their size, their maneuverability, and transportability.

The machines are also easier to manufacture and power simply because they are small. These factors—plus frequent applications indoors or close to inhabited homes and buildings where noise and emissions are frowned upon or prohibited—have made them prime candidates for electrification.

Indeed, a number of OEMs have used mini excavators as a starting point for electrification efforts. Announcements on electric excavators and related developments on partnerships and batteries for electric power storage seem to occur weekly.

One thing is certain: Unless you are working in a wide-open rural area that may be “off the grid,” they are coming to a job site near you. And relatively soon. Equipment makers see potential dollar signs along with environmental altruism.

According to a recently published report by Fact.MR, the global market for compact excavators is likely to expand at a 2.7 percent compound annual growth rate in terms of volume during its latest 10-year forecast period ending in 2026.

The report further projects that by the end of 2026, more than 173,600 compact excavators will be sold across the globe.

“In trying to understand where the customer needs are going, we’re looking at electrification and testing along our product line, and we will focus where those needs are,” says Terry Dolan, VP of Case Construction Equipment North America. Though his company showed an electric backhoe loader at Conexpo 2020 that is now being tested by utility companies in New York, it has also developed an electric mini excavator. “Electrification is definitely coming and we will be there on several fronts.”

According to preliminary findings of a CALSTART research project on zero-emission off-road equipment and the challenges faced in deploying it, a major shift is coming in how mini excavators are powered in the U.S.

Small excavators have made significant inroads and have the largest market increase of all clean engine types. Fully electric small excavators made up 5 percent of the U.S. market in 2021, and this is expected to rise to 15 percent by 2029.

Insulators to progress

CALSTART says off-road equipment comes with its own distinctive and complex challenges to solve. These can include the technological issue of big machines needing a great deal of power to fulfill their tasks; the logistical challenge of charging off-road equipment in remote working locations; and the one of perception—the idea held by many that electrified off-road equipment is incapable of handling the work.

(Video) EC230 Electric customer pilot, the first electrified larger Volvo excavator

These challenges may not be easy to solve, but they are not insurmountable. With forward-looking and unique applications of technology, legislation, and education, these problems can be assessed and eliminated, says the nonprofit that describes its mission as “working to build a prosperous, efficient, and clean high-tech transportation industry.”

According to CALSTART, construction equipment electrification is both more achievable and desirable than agricultural equipment electrification. The reason is that it is simply easier to electrify construction equipment compared to other types of off-road vehicles. This is because most construction happens in populated areas, so there is less of a challenge in accessing infrastructure than with more remote off-road applications.

Additionally, construction equipment is often compact compared to other off-road categories, and so the possibilities for immediate electrification using current technology are strong.

One of these challenges is perception, CALSTART reports. Many stakeholders across these industries assume that an electrically powered machine will not be able to perform to the level of their ICE counterparts, even when it has been shown that those electric vehicles can indeed do so.

There is also the concern that charging these vehicles out in the remote regions in which they operate will be a problem. Construction equipment in urban or suburban locales can also face charging challenges since construction sites are often cramped and difficult to navigate.

Finally, although battery technology is continually and rapidly improving, the problem of duty cycles is a consideration. Equipment can often sit idle for long periods, and then can be suddenly called upon to operate intensively for many hours. The batteries that power these vehicles must be able to endure these long down times and still have sufficient charge left to accomplish the work their ICE counterparts are called upon to do, without needing to recharge during the workday.

The full report from CALSTART, Achieving Zero Emissions in Construction and Agricultural Equipment, is scheduled for release while this issue is on press.

OEMs have actively been working on the problems and perceptions CALSTART describes, seemingly none more so than Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE).

Who makes electric excavators?

Volvo has three electric mini excavators (EC18 Electric, ECR18 Electric, and the ECR25 Electric) available for North America. The electromobility portion of the company’s website says the EC18 and ECR18 will be delivered in spring 2023, while the ECR25 has already begun shipping to U.S. customers.

Interestingly, Volvo is taking online reservations for the machines. There is a reservation fee of $100 to start the process. “A lot of sales have been made through our ‘reservation tool,’ and those leads are then passed to a local dealer who facilitates that sale,” says Volvo CE spokesperson Emily Fouche.

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Volvo U.S. president Stephen Roy discussed the process at the recent ACT meeting in California.

“Our reservation tool and dealer network play a key role in getting these electric machines into customer hands,” Roy said. “We have a different approach than we have taken in the past with sales by using an online reservation tool. Over 50 percent of our first sales have come through that reservation tool. Our dealer network continues to be important. We started with just one dealer opting in to sell electric and we now have 22 of 33 dealers enrolled and fully trained to support electric.”

The first delivery in the U.S. was to Walden Hill, a 400-acre farm in Massachusetts that practices sustainable forestry and other environmentally friendly strategies.

Jennifer Milikowsky and her husband, Tylan Calcagni, produce maple syrup and harvest acorns used to feed pigs at nearby farms. “Minimizing our carbon footprint is critical, so we try to do that with every decision we make,” Milikowsky said in a Volvo news release. “The thought of buying a diesel machine in 2022 that we would use for a decade or more was hard to accept.

“We did a deep energy retrofit on our 1820 farmhouse, we are exploring a solar installation on the farm, and now we get to take a big step forward in trying to convert our fleet of vehicles and machines to electric.”

Volvo CE began accepting reservations for the ECR25 Electric compact excavator in North America in August 2021.

“Anyone who owns or works on a small family farm knows that the daily list of jobs is as diverse as it is long,” Calcagni said. “This excavator might help us put in a culvert under a forest trail one day and help us do site prep for a new sugar house the next. We’re so excited to have this versatile machine at our disposal.”

The farmers installed a 220-volt outlet in their barn to charge the excavator but can also charge it with a regular household outlet if needed. Both drive hybrid cars and they already had a 220-volt outlet in their garage.

JCB is marketing its 19C-1E excavator in North America. The unit has a four-battery pack the company says allows for five hours on a standard charge. Three charging options are available for the mini excavator: 110V, 230V, and 415V.

As mini excavators are a popular rental item, some manufacturers are going that route first. Takeuchi, for example, is deploying its TB20e electric excavator with United Rentals.

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“United Rentals and Takeuchi have a long history together, and we’re pleased to be the first to offer the new, environmentally friendly TB20e excavator,” said T.J. Mahoney, VP, supply chain for United Rentals, in announcing the move. “Not only does this machine provide our customers with a more sustainable equipment option, it’s also more cost-efficient to operate.”

Bobcat has conducted test drive and live demonstration events near Los Angeles in Granada Hills and in Stockton, California. The tour included the E32e and E10e mini excavators.

Attending the events were leaders from California Air Resources Board (CARB), City of Los Angeles, Port of Los Angeles, Stanislaus County, and other public organizations, as well as Sunbelt Rentals.

“These electric, off-road construction machines are a promising step in our aim to increase access to clean off-road equipment that produces near-zero emissions in California,” said William Robertson, vehicle program specialist with the Mobile Source Control Division at CARB, in a statement. “The commercialization of cleaner off-road technologies shown at these events are exciting examples supporting the state’s transition to a clean energy economy.”

Sunbelt Rentals has already invested in Bobcat electric compact excavators. They became available for rent by Sunbelt Rental customers in California and at other U.S. locations in July.

The Case electric mini excavator that is in the works is the CX15 EV, targeted to market in North America in 2023. The CX15 EV has an operating weight of 2,900 pounds and is powered by a 16-kW electric motor. The 21.5-kWh lithium-ion battery is charged either by the 110V/220V on-board charger, or via an external rapid charger that can have the machine charged within 90 minutes. Depending on application, the company says the excavator will have enough power to work through a full eight-hour workday.

Another potential player, and one that is currently seeking to make big splashes on its own in the U.S. after dissolving its excavator joint venture with John Deere, is Hitachi (HCMA). Hitachi has an electric model (ZE85) available in Europe.

There are no plans to bring it here—yet—but the product is offered with an intriguing solution for charging challenges.

The ZECOM (Zero-Emission Construction Machinery) excavators are Hitachi crawler models fitted with battery-driven electric drivetrains. They are aimed at indoor operations, residential environments, or areas where the use of ICE is legally restricted.

Based on the Hitachi ZX85US, it offers a four-hour runtime in its maximum configuration by which the capacity requirement can be customized with several built-in battery modules. The charging time can be reduced, Hitachi says, to 35 to 45 minutes when using a CCS2 interface of up to 150kW to charge the battery system. This means it can be charged during break times on the job site.

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Additionally, it’s possible to charge the machine with 400 V CEE grid during break times and during operation.

Charging challenges for EVs

It is marketed with its own power system, called the “KTEG Powertree,” a mobile plug-and-play quick charging station specifically designed for off-road use.

The modular concept looks like a shipping container box; in fact, its design mimics a 10-foot sea container. Its storage capacity is configurable according to its intended use, with CCS2 fast charging capable of more than 800 volts.

The Powertree’s plug-and-play capability means there are no electricians required for start-up and it’s an off-grid stand-alone solution that can also be operated without a mains connection.

It also features air-conditioned buffer storage allowing it to be used regardless of weather conditions. The charging station can be serviced by the Deutz service network. It is designed for a 10-year life span, according to Hitachi’s European marketing literature.

German manufacturer KTEG says its Powertree solution can charge a wide-range of battery-electric machines and site vehicles in the shortest possible time. It calls the system a “mobile buffer battery with a quick-charging station in a flexible and durable 10-foot container.” The company says it can be put into operation on any construction site in less than 10 minutes without any special training for workers.

Also looking to overcome charging issues, Volvo CE has partnered with Beam Global to allow Volvo dealers to bundle charging systems with a purchase of electric equipment (in addition to minis, Volvo is also marketing small electric loaders in the U.S).

Beam provides products for EV charging, energy storage, energy security, and outdoor media. The partnership involves the company’s EV ARC off-grid charging systems.

This joint offering enables construction sites to rapidly deploy EV charging, without the requirement for electrical work, utility grid connections, or fossil fuel generators, to power zero-emissions construction equipment that runs on the sun and does not generate a utility bill, according to Beam.

“The construction industry has the opportunity to future-proof its business against noise, carbon emissions regulations and volatile fossil fuel costs by adopting electric machines,” said Beam Global CEO Desmond Wheatley, in a statement.

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The EV ARC system can be set up and ready to use in minutes, according to Beam. It is fully autonomous, meaning it generates, stores, and delivers electricity independent of the grid. Whether the project is in a remote nature preserve or a densely populated city with strict zoning rules, the solar-powered EV ARC can be deployed without any electrical work or permitting.


When was the first excavator made? ›

The very first excavator to use hydraulic technology was built in 1882 by Sir W. G. Armstrong & Company in England, where it was used in construction of the Hull docks.

When were hydraulic diggers invented? ›

In 1897, Kilgore Machine Company introduced the first 'all hydraulic' excavator. This machine was operated using direct-action four steam cylinders and no cables. Kilgore's excavator was hardy, therefore hardy in operation.

What is the voltage of excavator? ›

This is approximately 5 h; the power supply has an output of 1.5 kW at a voltage of 240 V.

Which company made the first excavator? ›

The very first excavation machine was built in 1882, by Sir W. G. Armstrong's company in England and it was used for digging the plot for the docks in Hull.

When did hydraulic excavators become popular? ›

“Hydraulic excavators eventually made the cable in construction applications obsolete,” says Berry. “They began in the '50s and really started taking hold in the '60s.”

Who made the first 360 excavator? ›

TAKEUCHI CELEBRATES 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF WORLD'S FIRST 360 DEGREE COMPACT EXCAVATOR. Takeuchi Japan (September 1, 2021): It was 1968 when Mr. Akio Takeuchi, founder of Takeuchi manufacturing was approached by a business partner and builder to design and build a machine that would replace pickaxes and shovels.

When did caterpillar start using hydraulics? ›

Another major introduction of the decade was our first hydraulic excavator – the 225 – in 1972. More firsts for the decade? The first Caterpillar remanufacturing plant began production in Bettendorf, Iowa – the beginning of a significant sustainability effort that continues today.

Who built the first mini excavator? ›

Invented by Richard Smalley, this piece of equipment is credited with the very first mini excavator. With no actual engine and sporting only two wheels on a single axis, the Smalley excavator moves by the operator using the digging arm to pull itself forward on the two wheels.

Can you run an excavator in lightning? ›

Stay off and away from large equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, backhoes, track loaders and tractors. Do not touch materials or surfaces that can conduct electricity, including metal scaffolding, metal equipment, utility lines, water, water pipes and plumbing.

What are the two types of excavator controls? ›

There are two different types of control patterns for excavator: ISO & SAE. Typically, ISO controls are standard, which we will be using. It is important to note that most machines now have a valve that you can switch to the control pattern that you are most comfortable with.

What are the 3 different voltages? ›

Voltages Divided into Classifications
  • High (HV), Extra- High (EHV) & Ultra-High Voltages (UHV) - 115,000 to 1,100,000 VAC.
  • Medium Voltage (MV) - 2,400 to 69,000 VAC.
  • Low Voltage (LV) - 240 to 600 VAC.

Which company excavator is best? ›

12 Popular Excavator Manufacturing Companies
  • Caterpillar. Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment, offers more than 300 machines in its product line and features many different sizes of excavators. ...
  • Komatsu. ...
  • John Deere. ...
  • Bobcat. ...
  • JCB. ...
  • Doosan. ...
  • Hyundai. ...
  • Volvo.
14 Jul 2022

What does JCB stand for? ›

Founder of JCB: Joseph Cyril Bamford

Most people don't realize that JCB stands for J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited. JCB is one of the three largest construction equipment manufacturers in the world and it was named after its founder, Joseph Cyril Bamford.

Which country made excavator? ›

The history of the Volvo excavators is closely linked to that of the Swedish company Åkermans Gjuteri och Mekaniska Verkstad, founded in 1890. The company started out manufacturing equipment such as pumps and grinders and later moved into construction equipment. Åkermans' first excavator was built in 1939.

When did Kubota start making excavators? ›

1974 – Kubota introduced the KH1, a fully-rotating compact excavator, an industry first in the construction world. The success of this mini excavator led to the creation of Kubota's construction machinery division in 1976.

When did caterpillar start making excavators? ›

Caterpillar's first hydraulic excavator model, the 225, hard at work in the 1970s. The 1950s and 1960s were a period of tremendous expansion in our product line.

Who owns the biggest excavator in the world? ›

The Bucyrus RH400, which Caterpillar currently owns, is reported to be the world's largest hydraulic excavator. This colossus is a front shovel excavator that weighs roughly 980 tonnes. It also has a crawler length of 10.98 meters and an undercarriage width of 8.6 meters (28 feet) (36 feet).

What is the biggest 360 excavator? ›

1 - LIEBHERR R9800

At the top of the list is the Liebherr R9800, the world's largest excavator. It is manufactured in Germany and is designed to perform large-scale mining work. Its measurements are: Length 23.9m - Width 10.5m - Height 11.7m.

How many times can an excavator spin left? ›

Infinite assuming the electric-hydraulic use a slip ring, the upper frame is attached to the lower with a slewing ring so infinite rotation there.

When did Cat stop putting engines in trucks? ›

They stopped manufacturing on-highway engines in 2010, making the SDP engine the last C15 and the last class-eight truck engine they built. So, instead, they decided to focus on their successful off-highway applications where they saw more money.

Who is bigger John Deere or Caterpillar? ›

Caterpillar Inc.'s brand is ranked #171 in the list of Global Top 1000 Brands, as rated by customers of Caterpillar Inc.. Their current market cap is $126.91B. John Deere's brand is ranked #187 in the list of Global Top 1000 Brands, as rated by customers of John Deere. Their current market cap is $116.64B.

Who is the father of hydraulics? ›

He is best known for having improved the flush toilet and inventing the hydraulic press. Along with William Armstrong, 1st Baron Armstrong, he can be considered one of the two fathers of hydraulic engineering.
Joseph Bramah
Known forhydraulic press
3 more rows

Who owns Takeuchi? ›

Akio Takeuchi in 1963. Since then, the company has followed its path as a leading global manufacturer of construction machinery, such as compact hydraulic excavators and track loaders. Listening to the unique requirements of equipment owners is a passion of Mr. Takeuchi and the entire company.

Who makes Takeuchi? ›

Takeuchi Mfg.

(株式会社竹内製作所, Kabushiki-gaisha Takeuchi Seisakujo) is Japanese heavy-machinery company that produces mini excavators, hydraulic excavators, and crawler loaders. In 1971 Takeuchi introduced the first compact excavator.

Who makes Kubota mini excavators? ›

Kubota Excavators: 10-70 HP - Blueline Manufacturing Co.

What is the 30 30 rule for lightning? ›

When You See Lightning, Count The Time Until You Hear Thunder. If That Is 30 Seconds Or Less, The Thunderstorm Is Close Enough To Be Dangerous – Seek Shelter (if you can't see the lightning, just hearing the thunder is a good back-up rule). Wait 30 Minutes Or More After The Lightning Flash Before Leaving Shelter.

What is the OSHA rule on lightning? ›

Remain in the shelter for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last sound of thunder. Vehicles as Shelter: If safe building structures are not accessible, employers should guide workers to hard-topped metal vehicles with rolled up windows.

Can heavy equipment get struck by lightning? ›

Heavy Equipment.

Backhoes, bulldozers, loaders, graders, scrapers, mowers, and other heavy equipment that employ an enclosed rollover systems canopy (ROPS) are safe in nearby electrical storms. The operator should shut down the equipment, close the doors, and sit with hands in lap, waiting out the storm.

What is ISO mode on excavator? ›

ISO controls

In the ISO control pattern, the left hand joystick controls Swing (left & right) and the Stick Boom (away & close), and the right hand joystick controls the Main Boom (up & down) and Bucket motions (close & dump). This control pattern is standardised in ISO 10968 and SAE J1177. Left hand left = Swing left.

What does ISO stand for on excavator controls? ›

Foreword. ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies (ISO member bodies). The work of preparing International Standards is normally carried out through ISO technical committees.

Is 440V the same as 480V? ›

480V is the voltage between phases of a 3-phase “Y” circuit that's 277V from hot to neutral. In keeping with 110V versus 120V strangeness, motors intended to run on 480V three phase are often labeled as 440V.

Is 480 volt always 3 phase? ›

Most US industrial facilities use 480V 3 Phase instead of 208V or 240V because it provides 2.3 (480 /208) times or 2.0 (480 /240) times more power with the same current. More important is it provides the same power with less current which provides added benefits.

Why is 120 volts better than 240 volts? ›

120V AC Power has a reduced chance of producing a terminal electrocution should one occur. 240V power divides the single-phase electricity into two separate 110V conductors that share a common neutral wire or ground. This allows for a more efficient transfer of power. Power is equal to voltage times current.

What is the biggest excavator ever made? ›

At the top of the list is the Liebherr R9800, the world's largest excavator. It is manufactured in Germany and is designed to perform large-scale mining work. Its measurements are: Length 23.9m - Width 10.5m - Height 11.7m.

When did heavy machinery start? ›

Heavy equipment has been used since at least the 1st century BCE when the ancient Roman engineer Vitruvius described a crane in De architectura when it was powered via human or animal labor.

Which is the best excavator in the world? ›

We have compiled a list and ranked the top ten brands of excavators.
  • Caterpillar.
  • Volvo.
  • Komatsu.
  • Sany.
  • John Deere.
  • Hitachi.
  • Doosan.
15 Mar 2022

Who sells the most excavators in the world? ›

1. Caterpillar. Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment, offers more than 300 machines in its product line and features many different sizes of excavators.

What is the most popular excavator brand? ›

Caterpillar is possibly the most popular brand in the construction game. Their excavators outrank the other brands with their durability and versatility across different types and sizes.

What is the fastest excavator? ›

The world-famous JCB GT was today crowned the fastest digger on earth after reaching speeds of more than 70 miles an hour in Australia.

Will heavy equipment ever be electric? ›

By 2023, 19 all-electric or fuel-cell versions of heavy trucks will be available in North America, up from five on the market today, according to a Rocky Mountain Institute analysis.

What is the most advanced machine ever built? ›

The Large Hadron Collider is said to be the largest machine in the world. It's the biggest and most powerful particle collider ever built.

What was the first heavy equipment? ›

Late 1800s

In 1886, Benjamin Holt created his first combine harvester, followed by a steam engine tractor four years later in 1890. Not to be outdone, John Froelich invented the gas-powered tractor soon after that in 1892. These inventions would help pave the way for heavy equipment.


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