GNB'S Experience in Electrification of the Construction Industry
By Dr. Dominik Margraf
Senior Product Manager, Motive Power EMEA
Construction and all-terrain are set for a big shift in the coming years, with more firms and manufacturers embracing electrical vehicles. These offer a range of compelling benefits over traditional internal-combustion options, including reduced environmental impact, noise levels, and total cost of ownership.
One company at the heart of this trend is Exide Technologies. Exide develops batteries for industrial and transportation applications, and it provides original equipment to a wide range of manufacturers, including car makers and manufacturers of commercial vehicles and agricultural machinery.
A strong base for construction
The construction industry has seen the electrification of smaller equipment such as mini dumpers, but the electrification of larger non-road mobile machinery is a newer trend. Other industries such as intralogistics and material handling have already shown the commercial feasibility of using battery power in heavy-duty applications. This includes large electric forklifts capable of moving 15t, those that operate seamlessly between indoors and outdoors, and those that operate 24/7 with back-to-back shifts throughout. With electrified all-terrain vehicles on the rise, Exide's experience with these vehicles gives it a huge advantage.
Unique challenges for all-terrain
Thanks to the increasing energy density of its advanced lead-acid and lithium-ion technologies, Exide has battery technology able to power all-terrain vehicles in the most demanding environments. GNB Industrial Power - a division of Exide Technologies - develops industrial batteries that not only have the necessary electrical requirements, but can also withstand the unique challenges of outdoor environments, including extreme temperatures, weather, dust and debris.
Do you have the power?
In residential areas, where most construction sites are located, grid power will become the limiting factor for the electrification of large excavators and similar machines. The battery charger will take power from the grid, and the largest vehicles will have the largest power requirements. Even in industrial areas where, by communal design, the electric supply is set up to cope with high electric consumption, this can still pose a challenge.
The typical approach in material handling to overcome this is to have a bank of spare batteries in a changing station that are charged overnight or whenever excess power is available, and to simply exchange an empty battery for a full one. The same approach can be used in construction, but it requires even floors or lifting systems, e.g. so-called battery tuggers, to exchange multi-ton batteries. Once this is addressed, the next question of how to smartly exchange batteries needs to be solved.
Catch-22 - should battery selection be fast or sustainable?
Replacing an empty battery with a charged one decreases vehicle downtime, which increases operating hours. But challenges exist, especially at large changing stations. Which of the many charged batteries available should be picked? For a stressed operator, it is the one nearest the entrance, because it is the quickest. But this means batteries at the front are picked too often, sometimes while still warm from charging. They are unintentionally put in continuous operation, greatly reducing their life cycle. Batteries at the back of the station, meanwhile, are sleeping beauties, rarely or never used, and are ultimately dead capital. But how is the driver supposed to know, especially on a busy construction site with a wide range of vehicles?
Increased fleet efficiency with EasyPick and GNB 2100.NET
GNB has a straightforward, industry-proven solution: the EasyPick prioritization system. Through smart communication, it marks just one battery as available, using a green light. For operators, the message is crystal-clear. This system results in consistent use of batteries, eliminating undue stress on any one of them. It also removes downtime, which keeps the fleet moving constantly. The system is ideally suited to construction and all-terrain applications.
The fleet management software GNB 2100.NET allows simultaneous monitoring of battery use at one or more sites. If total battery usage is 85% in one site and 95% in another, then batteries can simply be swapped to yield 90% overall use. The savings potential of intelligent site management is considerable, especially at peak times - it can amount to tens of thousands of euros annually for a medium-size fleet. GNB also allows for peak voltage management to ensure the most cost-effective charging, avoiding expensive voltage peaks and reducing total cost of ownership.
A solution to provide power in challenging outdoor and construction sites with limited communal power supply can be power racks or containers stacked with batteries to provide a 'plug and store' energy storage system. These are charged whenever excess power is available from the grid, and are used to charge the vehicle batteries when needed. They are designed for easy transportation and can be installed in any location, with no infrastructure needed. Typical applications include back-up power, grid stabilization and replacing diesel generators. They can be used in construction applications, providing power to recharge all-terrain vehicle batteries.
A full suite of products and solutions
GNB understands that the answer to electrification of non-road vehicles in the construction industry goes beyond just batteries. A complete solution is needed that includes battery charger, charging algorithms, battery management system, accessories, consulting, application know-how, services and support.
GNB has a market-leading range of battery chargers, including GNB 2100 HP, the versatile all-round charger designed for high-performance, energy-efficient charging. It provides highly efficient power conversion, which reduces power consumption and energy costs. It is also available in the 2100 Weatherproof version, which protects from debris, weather and other externalities. This is used to charge ground support vehicles at airports, and in the metal industry, where filtering and dust-proof housing are required.
Industry-leading battery technology
GNB has a market-leading range of motive power batteries. Each is designed to deliver the lowest total cost of ownership in particular applications, and GNB helps customers to choose the right one for their needs.
GNB TENSOR is an advanced lead-acid battery that excels in heavy-duty applications, making it ideal for challenging construction and all-terrain vehicle uses. It supports fast and multi-opportunity charging, and can support a full recharge from 80% depth of discharge within just 4 hours. This is made possible thanks to exceptional charge acceptance combined with GNB's proprietary Z-profile charging algorithm.
TENSOR offers impressive operating lifespan, which improves return on investment and total cost of ownership. TENSOR also offers high energy density, enabling long running times between charges. It is designed to excel in challenging environments, including in high-rack, cold-store locations and outdoor application.
GNB Sonnenschein Lithium offers exceptional charging performance, with the ability to recharge fully within just 1 hour. This makes it possible to support 24/7 operations on a single battery, with short bursts of recharging while workers take breaks. It also removes the need for charging rooms. Sonnenschein Lithium is maintenance-free and provides exceptional power, high energy density, and high cycle life. At construction sites where battery swaps are not possible due to infrastructure restrictions, Sonnenschein Lithium can be an excellent choice.
The benefits of electric
Electrical construction vehicles will increasingly replace internal combustion options in the years ahead, driven by their many advantages. One is the huge reduction in maintenance costs when you switch to electric, removing many of the complex vehicle parts that can go wrong - starter, pump, etc. This not only lowers maintenance costs but increases vehicle longevity. The result is a smarter investment.
Noise reduction is another major benefit. Many construction projects meet with resistance because of noise levels and interruptions to local homes and businesses. Switching to electrical vehicles reduces that impact and improves health and safety for staff and for people nearby. Reduced noise may also allow work hours to be extended, improving project delivery times and returns for investors.
For businesses, switching to electrical vehicles is good for your reputation with consumers, and also for your financial performance. You are no longer exposed to the volatility of oil prices and total cost of ownership can be reduced.
GNB Industrial Power has a wide range of expertise and technologies to help its customers embrace the path ahead in construction and all-terrain vehicles. This includes a market-leading range of battery technologies, chargers, charging algorithms, battery management systems, consulting and support. Contact GNB to find out how you can leverage the latest technology and take your business to the next level.