Volvo Construction Equipment and Swedish aggregates producer Skanska have begun testing the viability of the former’s Electric Site concept. The system, which incorporates electric and autonomous Volvo machines, will run in a real production environment for 10 weeks – delivering an anticipated 95 per cent reduction in carbon emissions and 25 per cent reduction in total cost of operations.
The Electric Site system is part of a groundbreaking study to create the world’s first “emission-free” quarry. Drawing on the electromobility and automation expertise of the Volvo Group, the research project aims to electrify each transport stage in a quarry – from excavation to primary crushing, and transport to secondary crushing – although a negligible amount of diesel power will still be used. The system’s efficiency, safety and environmental benefits could impact both producers and society at large.
The nearly 22 million Euro ($AUD36 million) research project is being supported by the Swedish Energy Agency (SEA), and researchers at Sweden’s Linköping and Mälardalen universities.
Volvo CE and Skanska began testing the Electric Site concept on 29 August at Skanska’s Vikan Kross quarry near Gothenburg in Sweden. The quarry produces aggregates for construction purposes as well as for asphalt and cement.
“This is the first time that anything like this has been attempted in the quarrying industry and, if successful, Electric Site could serve as a blueprint for transforming the efficiency, safety and environmental impact of quarries around the world,” Gunnar Hagman, the CEO of Skanska Sweden, said.
With Electric Site, Volvo CE and Skanska are challenging the traditional ways of working in the quarrying industry. The project has involved developing new concept machines, work methods and site management systems that together form a complete site solution. New technology encompasses machine and fleet control systems and logistic solutions for electric machines in quarries.
The project also aims to deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption, emissions and total cost of ownership while also improving productivity and demonstrating how a quarry of the future could be operated.
“We have had to completely rethink the way we work and how we look upon machine efficiency – pushing the boundaries of our competence,” Volvo CE’s president Melker Jernberg said.
“The total site solution we developed together with our customer Skanska is not a commercial solution for sale today and we will evaluate the outcome of the tests but we have learnt so much already, elements of which will be fed into our future product development.”
‘Good place to start’
The decision to use a quarry as a testing ground is partly because it is a more static work environment and less dynamic than a construction site.
“We consider quarries to be a good place to start with electrification – many of them already have electricity installed and some electric equipment on-site,” Volvo CE’s director of emerging technologies Jenny Elfsberg said.
“We have been working with general purpose and production equipment in quarries for a long time, so we know them. We can analyse and find efficiency improvement and we can easily compare before and after performance.”
The technology could eventually be applied to large construction projects. Electric-powered construction equipment will also have the benefit of significantly reduced noise emissions, of particular concern in the urban environment.
Based on 2010 figures, the SEA estimates the energy consumption of construction equipment in Sweden at 14 terawatt hours (TWh) compared to 19 TWh for trucks, 3.7 TWh for buses and 55 TWh for private cars. The significance of these figures prompted the agency to ask Volvo CE what might happen if electrical power was used instead of diesel in a typical quarry. The subsequent discussions led to the Electric Site project.
“We estimated that if we could electrify a number of the functions in the quarry, we could reduce energy use by 71 per cent [in kWh]. The intensity of the energy is much higher with electricity, which is why the potential savings are higher,” SEA director general Erik Brandsma said.
“In many applications, excavators are sufficiently stationary to be powered with electricity through cables. Crushers in our demonstration quarry could also get their power through cables. We could maybe develop plug-in hybrid solutions for haulers. In the future, machines could be fully electrified with batteries, leading to the possibility of fully autonomous, driverless machines guided by computer.”
Volvo CE, in conjunction with other sectors of the Volvo Group, has been working on electromobility and hybrid technologies for 20 years. In the past two years, it has launched six concept earthmoving vehicles: the LX1 and LX2 prototype hybrid wheel loaders, the EX1 and EX2 prototype hybrid excavators and the HX1 and HX2 autonomous battery-electric load carriers.
The LX1 and LX2 incorporate drivelines that consists of electric drive motors mounted at the wheels, electric hydraulics, an energy storage system, a significantly smaller diesel engine and new machine architecture. According to Volvo CE, the prototypes can perform the same duties as a wheel loader one size larger.
The EX1 and EX2 concept excavators work to similar principles as the LX1 – electric hydraulics, an energy storage system and a significantly smaller diesel engine.
The LX1 has already undergone hundreds of hours of field testing. In 2017, it was shipped to California where it worked in two waste transfer sites for US company Waste Management. The LX1’s fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission results were promising, showing an average improvement of 50 per cent fuel efficiency, equating to a reduction of 35 per cent in fuel consumption and carbon emissions (compared to its conventional counterparts). At one site, the LX1’s fuel efficiency came in at 45 per cent.
“We are pleased with the results from the field testing,” Volvo CE’s electromobility director Scott Young said. “Although [the LX1 had already recorded] up to a 50 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency in our internal tests, every application and operator are different. Because of this, we were aiming for a 35 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency … But we are happy to say that we’ve significantly exceeded this figure and achieved similar results to those recorded … in Sweden.”
In Australia, Volvo Construction Equipment products are available through CJD Equipment.
Source: Volvo Construction Equipment