After passenger and commercial vehicles, another segment is getting ready for an electric charge — construction and industrial equipment. Top names in the business like JCB, Volvo CE and Schwing Stetter are either already working on electric versions of some of their big yellow machines or conducting feasibility studies for the launch of select global e-applications in India.
“The construction equipment industry is seriously looking at electric mobility options, particularly for applications where we can pack a viable battery size,” said Dimitrov Krishnan, MD of Volvo CE India & president of the Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (ICEMA). Volvo, he said, has five electric models it has just launched globally — 3 excavators and 2 loaders. These are available in Europe and US and already 300 machines have been delivered. “We will launch them in India too and we are currently evaluating options,” said Krishnan. “Because of the higher cost, we will have to find a business model that is viable,” he added.
Others like Schwing Stetter India are looking for specific areas where electric mobility solutions can be used. “A 100-horsepower engine product that works inside tunnels used for metro, road or hydro power projects can use e-versions effectively because it will cut out exhaust fumes. We are attempting to convert applications like these to electric versions,” said V G Sakthikumar, MD of Schwing Stetter India. With lithium ion battery production being localised, both by Indian as well as MNC players, sourcing battery is no longer an issue, he added.
Indeed, the construction equipment industry’s baby steps into e-mobility is also an opportunity for local battery makers. Take Nexcharge, a joint venture between Exide and Swiss lithium ion battery maker Leclanche, which is already working with companies on e-applications. “Earth moving and off-highway equipment makers are opting for lithium ion battery-powered forklifts, excavators, etc, and a number of OEMs are working with us to electrify construction equipment machines. We are working with JCB, for instance, though the numbers are still small,” said Mehul Shah, VP (transport BU) at Nexcharge.
Construction equipment companies say the EV entry will be with smaller HP engine machines, otherwise the cost variable will not work. “A truck mixture which costs Rs 35 lakh will cost 6 times more in electric variant and will not be viable,” said Sakthikumar. For the math to work, smaller engines will move to electric variants. The construction industry sold 93,000 units in calendar 2021, up from 75,500 units in 2020 but short of its peak sales of 98,000 in 2018.