Construction Services

What’s It Like To Operate the New Volvo Electric ECR25 Excavator, L25 Loader?

U.S. contractors are now getting real-world experiences on Volvo Construction Equipment’s first battery-electric compact machines, the Volvo ECR25 excavator and the L25 wheel loader.

Four Volvo CE customers used the two machines in a variety of applications for about a year. 

The verdict? Zero-emissions does not mean decreases in productivity. Testers say they saw no compromises in digging depth and breakout force on the excavator or tipping load and dump height on the wheel loader. In addition, the units had full use of hydraulic power to any attachments.

To help show its operators what the electric ECR25 could do, one company testing the machines, demolition contractor Casper Company, ran a side-by-side demo of the electric unit with a diesel machine, both equipped with breakers. “It was as strong if not stronger [than the diesel machine] and that kind of changed everyone’s mind,” says Darrell Merritt, Casper superintendent. “I was shocked as well.”

Darrell Merritt, Casper Company, (left) and Jacques Marais, Baltic Sands, detailed their experience with the electric compact machines during a Volvo press event. Stephen Roy, Volvo CE president of region North America, moderates.“I had guys who wanted all the diesel power they could get, and they were surprised at the machines,” says Jacques Marais, director, Baltic Sands, a residential builder that specializes in off-grid property management, which also demo’d the electric units. 

Where the challenges remain are in battery charging speed and infrastructure. “There are current limitations in terms of getting a full eight-hour day,” Marais comments. Still, he says, “recognize that the electric machine is going to give you something that’s really close to it.”

“My guys usually work 10-hour days and we had to charge them at lunch and on breaks,” Merritt says. “If we were doing soft digging we got a little further, but not if we were using a hammer for 10 hours day.”

But there’s no doubt that there is a growing interest in electric-powered units by users, prompted in part by project owner concerns over the emissions and noise produced by diesel machines.

A week after the California press event, Volvo CE demo’ed the two machines at the Utility Expo. More than tire-kickers got behind the controls: Volvo says it took ECR25 orders during the show, orders that will start being filled in January. 

Tester experience
Baltic Sands test units.
Baltic Sands test units.Volvo CE

Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the goal of the pilot test was two-fold, says Ray Gallant, vice president of product management and productivity, Volvo CE. One, put the machines in real working conditions and two, test the charging infrastructure.

Working through its company-owned Volvo Construction Equipment & Services California dealer, Volvo tapped four organizations to demo the electric ECR25 and L25: 

Baltic Sands used the machines to excavate, grade and move materials among other tasks.Casper Company employed them for demolition work, including inside buildings.The California Department of Transportation used the units for trenching, grading and clearing of drainage areas.Waste disposal and recycling giant Waste Management tasked them with light waste handling.

Together the operations put 400 operating hours on the machines but don’t equate that with hours on a diesel engine, which accumulates hours as it consumes fuel, including idle time. With electric machines, if it’s not moving, no hours accumulate.

Testing operations found that charging infrastructure and speed remain a challenge, although Volvo says the high current available on the U.S. power grid proved beneficial in comparison with the European tests it has conducted. The tests used several charging options, including 240-volt AC grid power, a prototype 48-volt fast-charging mobile charger and a solar powered charger manufactured by Beam Global.

The machines use the same Type 2 charger currently on electric cars.

Using off-board fast charging, the excavator can be recharged 80% in one hour; for the loader, 80% can be achieved in 2 hours. On-board recharging takes 5 hours for the excavator and 12 hours for the loader. Depending on application and use, this gives each machine about 8 hours of operation.

Since Casper was using its electric machines on several jobs, it transported the units back to its yard for overnight charges.

Because Baltic Sands works in remote areas that aren’t connected to the grid, during the early stages of the project it transported the machines back to is yard for charging. Baltic eventually landed on using the solar-powered charger. “We found that to be a really good solution,” Marais says. It was an exciting prospect for us, especially down the line,” he says.

“I personally love solar charging,” Gallant says. In fact, Volvo had Beam Global set up its EV ARC 2020 transportable charging station at in the company’s Utility Expo booth. We’ll explore that system in a later story.

Changes in attitude

While his older operators were hesitant at first that quickly dissipated, Merritt says. “They figured out it wasn’t so hard,”  he says. There were also other benefits.

“We do a lot of underground utilities in existing occupied buildings and some of the biggest problems we have are noise and exhaust fumes,” Merritt says. Because of this his firm was prompted to do this work by hand. Merritt was actively looking for an alternative when the Volvo test opportunity presented itself.

“My guys loved it because they could talk to each other,” he says. (Volvo says exterior noise decreased by 9 decibels — a 90% reduction in sound power — on the the ECR25 compared to diesel units. The L25 saw similar reduction in sound power.) “They’re usually waving their arms to get an operator’s attention, so it’s also a safety thing.”

Another benefit, Merritt says: not being tired at the end of the day.

“Operator fatigue is a big deal,” Marais agrees.

Electric machines could also serve as a competitive advantage, Merritt says. “A lot of time we kind of get a bad rap for being the loud demolition guys,” he says. “This gives us up a leg up and our general contractors are pretty excited about it.”

Volvo also points out electric machines don’t require diesel engine maintenance such as changing oil, oil filters and diesel particulate filters. The DEF tank is also eliminated. What remains is the hydraulic system oil and filter and the coolant for the inverters and the drivetrain.

Volvo says the lithium-ion battery-powered units which again worked a combined 400 hours  reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 6 metric tons. Compared with a diesel-powered model, the test units saved 560 gallons of fuel at an estimated cost of $2,400, according to Volvo.

Quick specs

Priced at $92,900, the ECR25 features a 24-hour electric motor (peak), 20-kilowatt-hour battery capacity and has an operating weight of 6,102 pounds. In the operator’s seat, the machine noise is 74 decibels; outside the machine, the level is 84 decibels.

The L25, priced at $135,000, has a 48-horsepower electric motor (peak), a 1.2 cubic-yard bucket and weighs 11,023 pounds. 

Volvo  says it will continue to develop the electrification of other sizes and types of machines, along with pursuing additional grant opportunities and strategic partnerships. Beyond electric, Volvo sees hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen combustion and grid-connected machines all playing a part in the zero-emission jobsite journey.

Volvo says its R&D will focus next on continuing the enhance the run times of the machines, optimizing on-board charging systems and exploring alternative charging methods for jobsites that do not have ready access to charging stations.


Construction Blogs

15 Proven Ways To Recruit Construction Dealer Techs

The ever-present dealer technician shortage had us thinking it might be a good time to revisit some of the best construction equipment tech recruiting tips we’ve received from dealers and rental companies. 

1.Go to where the gearheads hang out. This can include truck mud-runs and local motorsports events. Sponsor an involved employee or a car and invite current employees to attend think of them as your ambassadors. While you might not find a trained diesel tech in the audience, many of the attendees will have a mechanical interest. Your sponsorship may give you access to this community plus build retention among the techs you already have.

2. Think beyond just out of high school. Those fresh-faced 18-year-olds may not be your only hope. Some argue that those with more years and more life experiences may be also be prime targets, especially if they’re only making $16 an hour in an Amazon warehouse. Those who have started families may be receptive if you lay out a career path and a smart diesel tech these days most assuredly has a career path.

3. Get good at social media. Yes, this is obvious, but do you really practice it? Consistent posting is the name of the game. Create a social media plan and execute it. Put up regular posts of your employee’s jobs, milestones and success stories, and encourage them to do the same. If a technician completes a rebuild on a big engine, for instance, the selfie they take might detail how they overcame the challenge. His or her share  full of the pride of accomplishment about work done at your company could in turn gain an audience. And it will remind people that you’re a great employer.

4. But don’t dismiss the tried and true. Traditional methods can still hold sway, including help-wanted signs on company property or trucks, word of mouth and employee referrals. Many employers swear by the referrals they get from current employees because employees know a bad referral will reflect poorly on them. And always ask job candidates how they heard about your company and keep track of which methods work.

5. Be aware of the digital tools available to you. Find out how you can target an online audience. Look into geotargeting and targeted data sets and know what works in terms of setting up your online ads and landing page(s). You can target people on Facebook, job boards and through search-engine marketing. And be transparent in your messaging. This includes being direct about base pay, hiring and relocation bonuses as well as highlighting company culture. Have a timely lead followup in place; ideally respond within 5 minutes by phone after a lead comes through. 

6. Make sure you’re inviting to women and minorities. Realize that diversity inclusion and workforce development are closely intertwined. When you do a bad job at tapping into diverse groups, you are more likely to have a workforce problem. Explore local groups that can help you reach out to specific communities.

7. Grow your own. It’s difficult to hire off the street and there are not enough tech school grads to fill the need. One neglected area may be right in your back yard. Make sure your own techs know about the opportunities you are bragging about to the outside world and encourage them to advance.

8. Up the ante. Sometimes it is a money/benefits game. Assess what you’re offering compared with all local employers, not just the ones who are your direct competitors. One rental company offers to match a certain percentage of an employee’s student loan payments up to $30,000 — and they don’t require a period of employment before the reimbursements begin. 

9. Have a recruiting plan. If you’re proactive with your recruiting strategy you won’t have to hire out of desperation. And don’t stop. Actively recruit even if your shop is currently at capacity. Set a goal of tech interviews to be accomplished in a certain time period. Consistently evaluate what works and what doesn’t.  

10. Celebrate incoming tech interns. Several tech schools and dealerships have set up “signing day” events such as those conducted for celebrated college athletes. It helps solidify the intern’s commitment and gives them the vision and knowledge they have an official spot.

11. Emphasize the career runway. Candidates have to earn the next rung on the ladder and there are going to be long hours, hard work, grease and dirt involved. New hires are not going to get a $70,000 job right out of tech school. But let them know there is a career runway and there are many paths up from the shop floor. These include the emerging technical expert who guides customers on the best way to employ today’s machine control solutions.

12. Hire a hero. The Reserves and National Guard are sweet spots for recruiting because their units are all locally based. These “weekend warriors” pull one weekend of active duty service a month and one two-week mission a year. The rest of the time they are civilians. While not all Reserve or Guard units have mechanics or technicians a high percentage have motor pools. In addition to a scholarship, one rental company pays the gap between discharge and when the G.I. Bill benefits take effect, providing around $1,200 to help cover living expenses. And be sure to spend time at any recruiting and career fairs at military bases in your area.

13. Take back the high schools. Don’t assume that local guidance counselors know that there are high-paying jobs that go unfilled in their local area. One company wrote to 3,500 guidance counselors and educators in its state, and received several “we didn’t know” responses. One dealer goes on more than 80 high school visits a years to connect with students in three states. Another dealer makes presentations on how to research and choose a career that’s only tangentially about diesel tech careers. Educate the people who are at your back door. 

14. Don’t forget the parents. Take a cue from the recent U.S. Army ad campaign you’re looking for a few good parents, ones that see the open technician field as a great opportunity. Host an event at your shop and invite the parents along with the students. Have your techs show what it’s like to work on heavy equipment. Recruiting talent is no different than a college football coach coming into someone’s living room and telling the parents that when they come to you, you’ll make sure they do well.

15. Never stop recruiting. Adopt some tactics floating in automotive circles. Have a business card with your elevator pitch on it, outlining the top three reasons why people should work for you. Or make it simple: show a piece of construction equipment with text that reads, “Your next job here” with your contact info. Hand them out with a comment such as, “I’m Joe and I hire diesel technicians.”

Construction Management

Industry Roundup: National Equipment Dealers buys Richardson

National Equipment Dealers (NED) has bought Richardson Service 1991, expanding its organization in South Carolina.

Based in Conway, South Carolina, Richardson specializes in construction, forestry and compact equipment and will now represent Hyundai Construction Equipment, Manitou, Sakai, Yanmar and Bell.

The former Richardson branch will be the first location among NED companies renamed as NED. Over the coming months, NED will rebrand the remaining MAY-RHI, Earthmovers Construction Equipment and Four Seasons branches to NED.

Through Richardson, NED gains the Berko, CMI and Prinoth lines. The entire Richardson team will remain with NED.

F&W adds Ransome Attachments

Pictured are (from left): Eric Ransome and Barbara Freund of Ransome Attachments, and Matt Valentine and Mark Laigle of F&W.Ransome Attachments

F&W Equipment has added the complete line of attachments offered by Ransome Attachments, including its Exac-One Mini Mower and Black Splitter S2 800 Cone Splitter. 

F&W also offers Kubota compact and mid-size farm and landscaping equipment, Doosan excavators, wheel loaders and compact equipment, as well as other specialty equipment.

Maverick joins Morbark

Maverick Environmental Equipment has been named a Morbark Industrial Products dealer for Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and western West Virginia. Maverick has locations in Newbury and Bremen, Ohio, with a focus on aggregate processing, waste recycling, forestry and biomass.

H&E completes crane sale 

H&E Equipment Services has completed the $130 million cash sale of its crane business to Manitowoc. H&E says it will use the funds for facilities expansion, rental fleet investment and general corporate purposes. 

“We believe our transition to a pure rental business strategy should result in improved revenues and margins through the industry cycle,” says Brad Barber, H&E CEO.

H&E also sold two earthmoving distribution branches in Arkansas, and will remain a distributor of earthmoving equipment in Louisiana. The company now has 101 branch locations in 24 states.

SMH Group adds Wood’s CRW

Wood’s CRW is now a dealer for Atlas material handlers, owned by SMH Group US. The Atlas line includes mobile industrial machines and industrial tracked machines for the scrap, wood and recycling markets, among others.

Based in Williston, Vermont, Wood’s CRW has four locations with coverage in all or part of eight states. It offers Volvo Construction Equipment, Link-Belt cranes and excavators, National cranes and Mecalac product lines.

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