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Off-highway sector charges up

Heavy equipment manufacturer Komatsu has announced that it is partnering with electric vehicle technology specialist Proterra to develop small- and mid-sized electric hydraulic excavators. 

Japanese multinational Komatsu will use the American company’s advanced battery systems to power its new line of upcoming zero-emissions excavators – prototypes of which are due in 2021, ahead of commercial production starting as early as 2023.

“Proterra’s best-in-class battery technology has been proven in 16 million miles driven by our fleet of transit vehicles,” said Jack Allen, CEO of Proterra. “What’s working in our battery-electric transit vehicles on roads across North America can work off-road, too.”

Komatsu claims the excavation performance of its electric vehicles will be comparable to its engine-powered offerings, which should make it easier for owners and operators to transition from  diesel to all-electric equipment. 

Electric power also offers advantages such as reduced noise and vibration, which benefits both operators and passers-by.

An all-electric mini excavator was launched in April 2020 by Komatsu but the partnership with Proterra will grant the company access to proven high-capacity batteries and supporting control and fast-charging components – all of which should prove ideal for heavier-duty machinery. 

Seiichi Fuchita, president of Komatsu’s development division, said: “I am excited about the collaboration with Proterra, by which Komatsu will drive the electrification of construction equipment.” 

Companies are beginning to employ electric off-highway equipment, too; French contractor Eiffage, for example, recently acquired a Volvo ECR25 compact electric excavator and a Volvo FE Electric truck. As well as meeting the requirements of increasingly tough noise and emissions regulations, the electric equipment will support Eiffage’s sustainability and low-carbon targets.

The 2.7-tonne ERC25 excavator is reputed to offer diesel-matching performance and up to four hours’ work time, depending on conditions and application, while the 6×2 electric version of the FE truck has a gross vehicle weight of up to 27 tonnes and a light-duty range of some 150km. 

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