Green Machines

By August 30, 2017 January 15th, 2019 Assets and Fleet, Blog, News

While welcoming the advent of cleanernpower, Angus Lindsay wonders whether our infrastructure will be able to keep up.

According to recent reports, the sale of fossil-fuelled engines is to be banned in the UK and France from 2040, to be replaced by electric and possibly hydrogen powered alternatives. Volvo and BMW have already committed to electrifying their ranges by 2025.
This is great news for the environment – by reducing pollution we will improve the air quality in our cities – but consider the upheaval of putting the infrastructure in place to service this new technology.

I have spoken before about the use of alternative power sources in our industry, and the challenges faced by manufacturers. Slowly, things are changing: we now see electric powered excavators working in our cities; John Deere has developed a battery powered tractor (albeit at enormous cost, but it’s a start); specialist tractor manufacturer Aebi has built the EC130 and EC170 range of electric all-terrain tool carriers. Looking not unlike WALL-E, these machines are powered by a rechargeable
lithium-ion battery that is mounted amidships, giving the machine a low centre of gravity and allowing it to operate on slopes – with or without an operator, thanks to a remote control function.

They are emission free, versatile and safe – it sounds like the perfect package. Electric powered equipment is getting better.
Strimmers, blowers, hedge cutters and both rotary and cylinder pedestrian mowers are becoming more commercial, with
developments in battery technology meaning that a  full day’s work is now a reality. Despite the government increasing
pressure on vehicle users to adopt cleaner technology by introducing a Toxicity Charge and bringing London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone forward to April 2019, we still have an issue with electric powered commercial vehicles. The current range of Euro 6 diesel engines are the cleanest ever produced, but even these are now seen as dirty technology that must be replaced. But with what? There are a wide range of vans available today, but these are somewhat impractical for moving topsoil, pulling triple mowers or transporting a tree team, their chipper and the material they produce. We await the 3,500kg electric tipper!

Let’s say that within the next 20 years, technology moves at such a rate that batteries are miniaturised, can easily hold a charge for eight hours of non-stop work, and are able to be recharged in minutes rather than hours; that we are all driving around in electric powered vehicles; that the end of the internal combustion engine is an inevitability on the horizon – will we have the infrastructure to cope? I stopped at the services on the M6 the other day and noticed that the four electric vehicle charging points all had covers over them that said, ‘Sorry – out of order. What do you do then? Looking around the car park, there must
have been 50-60 cars and around 30 HGVs; just think of the infrastructure required to charge that lot. Now think about the street you live in, or your depot and the vehicles therein, which would require the same sort of infrastructure.

There’s no doubt that over the next few years we will all have to review how we operate, and things will change. How we approach and embrace these changes is very much in the hands of the manufacturers producing the vehicles and equipment we operate. I’m all for cleaner technology, but there’s something quite ironic in using an electric excavator to dig a trench to bury a cable for a power point so that you can charge your electric car, or in using an electric mower to cut the grass around solar
panels in a field – but that’s technology for you.

Angus’s blog article is also published in the August 2017 issue of Pro Landscaper magazine.

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