Electrification of construction machinery hinges on charging infrastructure. A variety of electrification initiatives have been launched in Europe, where companies in many sectors are accelerating their measures to become carbon neutral by 2050. Particularly remarkable initiatives have taken place in Norway, which also leads the way in EV adoption. Strict requirements are in place for construction work in Oslo, the capital city: public construction work must be emissions-free by 2025, and general construction work must follow by 2030. Similar measures are underway in other countries and cities, so the pressure is on for the manufacturers of construction machinery.
This is being driven by a growing public awareness of environmental issues, as well as policy changes at a government level. Europe’s leaders in electrification—Norway and the Netherlands—offer subsidies to switch to electric models. In Norway, up to 40 percent of the difference in price between electric construction machinery and engine-powered machinery is subsidized. This has prompted construction machinery manufacturers in Japan, China, South Korea and the West to release a string of electric models.
One such model is the ZE85, an 8-ton class battery-operated excavator released by Hitachi Construction Machinery in 2020. The ZE85 was used in a pilot project for zero-emissions construction sites in Oslo by the Norwegian government. In the following years, European demand for electric construction machinery has skyrocketed, with companies also beginning to order models in the 5-ton class in 2022.
Hitachi exhibited both models at bauma 2022, an international construction machinery trade fair in Munich, Germany, along with prototypes for the 2-ton and 13-ton class developed by a joint company formed by Hitachi Construction Machinery and a subsidiary of Kiesel, Hitachi’s European dealer. Hitachi also exhibited a power bank with a mobile battery that can be charged rapidly on site, which it intends to sell in a set with its electric construction machinery.
Europe is making progress on the issue of charging. There are now a number of companies developing and supplying power banks and street charging stations. But even in Europe, this technology is still in its infancy, and there is still a lot of trial and error. Further advances are yet to come.