Into the future: electric/hybrid access equipment
By Euan Youdale27 July 2020
Access International delves into the trends and choices in the fast-moving electric- and hybrid-powered access equiment sector
Access equipment, powered by alternative sources to the traditional combustion engine, is already part and parcel of the industry, with slab scissors, for example, traditionally powered by batteries. But it is the advance into electric-powered rough terrain equipment that has sparked the imagination of equipment producers in recent years.
The common view is that hybrid and electric will continue its surge as emission regulations across the world expand, furthermore they offer more flexible machines for use indoors, outdoors and across a range of applications.
Then, there is the debate as to whether electric will trump hybrid long term and the issue of what type of battery to use. The use of lithium is increasingly popular and seemingly now has the edge over lead acid batteries in the rough terrain product categories.
One of the longest standing users of hybrid and electric technology is the tracked platform. Accordingly, Hinowa is one of the pioneers in this area and has launched a number of products that are pushing the boundaries of hybrid and specifically electric technology.
Spider lifts have always leant themselves to hybrid and electric power as they are often used in sensitive areas where zero emissions are required.
As Davide Fracca, sales and marketing director at Hinowa, says, “The regulations governing CO2 emissions and noise levels are becoming increasingly stringent and, in the near future, many cities will no longer allow access to vehicles with diesel engines. Consequently, bi-energy and electric technology is a revolutionary approach, responding to the need for high performance and efficiency with low emissions.”
Most recently, the Italian manufacturer launched the TeleCrawler13 - the first tracked aerial platform offering full direct electric drive, without the use of any hydraulic oil. While other equipment types have already moved into this area, this advancement in tracked platforms for general outdoor use highlights the direction in which the industry is moving.
The electric track motors used on the TeleCrawler13 have an IP67 protection factor, meaning the machine can work in muddy and dusty environments. The absence of oil on the translation system also eliminates the risk of leakage.
Other features of the 13m working height compact model is automatic control of the telescopic boom, go home and go back functions. Without the basket it measures just 3,695mm in length, 1,947mm in height and 748mm in width. Moreover, the stabilization area reduces to 2450mm x 2901mm, smaller than a single parking space. The company plans to expand the TC electric driven series by adding further models.
Hinowa has used lithium-ion battery packs on its aerial platforms for more than 10 years. Its decision to use lithium batteries instead of lead acid, or other types, is that lithium requires no maintenance, and the machine can be used during recharging, as well as there being the absence of memory effect. When it comes to the argument for total cost of ownership, Fracca says, “When you consider you can allow between 2000 and 3000 complete discharge-recharge cycles, therefore for the full life of the machine, it means that its viability abundantly exceeds the investment return time.”
Germany-based tracked specialist Teupen is fairly emphatic about which battery option it prefers. It’s most recent electric/hybrid launches are the LEO13GT, LEO30Tplus and the battery-powered LEO35Tplus. They are designed for cost-effective lifting, using lead acid batteries with 8V cells that are available worldwide, and used in golf carts. Company CEO Martin Borutta says, “Lead acid batteries are easily available, cheap, reliable and use non-hazardous materials.”
The manufacturer plans to launch further electric and hybrid models in the future. The will be, “Fully electric models with electric drive motors and hybrid models that are gas and battery-powered,” says Borutta.
Another Italian tracked platform manufacturer Easy Lift launched its latest hybrid model at bauma last year, the 42m working height R420HY. Another model, the RA24, will also become available in hybrid version, and will be launched at APEX next year. (APEX was originally due to take place in June this year but was postponed to the same month in 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic). The RA24 was due to be launched at APEX this year but it was pushed back for the same reason.
Manuela Vender, sales director at Easy Lift, says, “The main feature of the lithium batteries we use is their ability to recharge at double speed, slow and fast”. The Li-Fe-PO4 battery is the most safe and stable on the market, says Vender, with a longer life, exceeding 4000 recharging cycles. The battery can be recharged to 80% in one hour, with automatic battery recharge by the diesel engine while in use.
For all models in the Easy Lift range there are battery (BA) and hybrid (HY) versions. “Hybrid spiders are more versatile, in particular for rental companies,” says Vender. “We believe the whole access industry will launch higher electric and hybrid models. We have a 42m but a spider, around 52m, is already in our minds.”
Boom lift expansion
JLG previewed its EC boom lifts at bauma last year. The EC450 and EC520 models are now in production, with delivery due in the third quarter of 2020. The mid-sized articulating booms are equipped with lithium batteries and can work a full day without charging. They are delivered as standard on non-marking tyres.
Laurent Montenay, general manager at JLG Deutschland, confirms the benefits of lithium, being long lifecycles, quick charging and the ability to run full duty cycles. “Furthermore, these machines produce no noise and no emissions, allowing these products to work within city centres. Lastly, particularly for equipment owners, the cost to maintain is lower. There are no filters or oil that require regular maintenance.”
Montenay adds that the demand for electric-powered products can only increase. “Rental companies and our customers are asking for new solutions and alternatives over conventional diesel to work in urban areas and we are working towards fulfilling those needs.”
And he believes the choice of electric over hybrid is a forgone conclusion. “With lithium batteries becoming more accessible, there’s no need for hybrids anymore. The performance is equal to that of a conventional diesel.”
Nevertheless, there will be a short-term limit in the size of equipment that can be powered by a battery. As Montenay points out, “In relation to full electric, I think the limit would be the cost associated to the amount of batteries you need to power the equipment. In this case we can also say there is very fast technological progress made which should open the way to full electrification.”
France-based manufacturer Haulotte launched the pioneering rough terrain electric articulating boom Pulseo Generation in 2018. The 20.76m working height HA20 LE Pro has a 72 volt battery pack, and comes with an 18.5kW diesel Kubota range extender engine.
A second unit in the Pulseo Generation range will be launched in the third quarter of this year, with more information becoming available nearer the time.
Interestingly, Haulotte also chooses lead acid batteries. As Haulotte explains, the lead-acid battery is the prevailing technology on the market. They represent 70% of batteries that are produced globally and are stable, affordable, safe, reusable and recyclable technology.
Haulotte sees the advantages in the new generation of lithium-ion batteries, which are more stable than previous incarnations, and have high energy density, but not for general use across its range. Safety, cost and recyclability are also still to be perfected, the company believes.
Another clear option, in the view of Haulotte, is the emergence of fuel cells as a potential source of energy for its machines. “These are not batteries, but a device that can generate energy from the hydrogen contained in tanks and ambient air oxygen. Fuel cells provide good overall performances.”
Manitou has been making major developments to its boom lift range in recent times and has also chosen lead acid for its new electric model. The company first presented the 100% electric 200 ATJ E rough terrain boom lift prototype at Bauma last year. And it was officially released in the first quarter of this year.
Fanny Sourisseau, MEWP product manager said the original idea was to create an electric platform without compromising the DNA of its machines. “We wanted to make a reliable, robust machine with incomparable off-road capabilities. Our 200 ATJ E allows us to work at a height of 20m with a capacity of 230kg and two operators. To make life easier for our users, we ensure autonomy of at least one working day.” It is also light, at 7,100kg.
“Lithium-ion batteries seem to be a big trend today,” says Sourisseau. “It is true that they have many advantages, including extremely fast charging times. However, today, lead batteries are less expensive and a better known and mastered technology, especially in terms of recyclability.
“Each type of battery has its advantages and disadvantages, the point is to propose the technology that best suits the machine’s uses and now, we consider that lead acid is still the best offer for MEWPs.”
Nevertheless, the general direction is clear, as governments introduce stricter emission regulations. “It’s quite difficult to set limits because the technologies are advancing quite quickly and our skills in the field of electrification are advancing rapidly, but I think it’s realistic to say today that all self propelled aerial platforms up to very great heights can operate on electric or hybrid power.”
Niftylift was the founder of the hybrid boom range and in recent years has launched its electric E range which offers significantly increased standard duty cycle performance. The latest in the range, which was launched in 2019, is the HR17NE, an all-electric-drive version of the HR17N. It offers a 17m working height, with a market-leading outreach of 9.7m, all from a 1.5m wide base that weighs 7,780kg.
Snorkel has accelerated its introduction of its electric lithium-powered lifts. In April 2019, the company previewed a lithium-ion battery powered SL26RTE and SL30RTE Speed Level lifts, which entered full production at its UK manufacturing facility in October
At ConExpo this year, Snorkel showed the same lithium-ion technology in its line of compact rough terrain scissor lifts. The S2770RTE, S3370RTE and S3970RTE are available to pre-order and are scheduled to enter UK production in late 2020 for early 2021 deliveries. Snorkel also introduced the industry’s first electric rough terrain telehandler at ConExpo, the SR626E. See more about this in the Telehandler feature in this issue of AI.
The Speed Level and compact rough terrain scissors are designed to deliver a long duty cycle to work a full shift and emit up to 60% less noise than the diesel equivalents. The battery packs have a built-in battery management system (BMS) and integrated electric powertrain. The lifts all offer 4-wheel drive with zero emissions, while reducing running costs by up to 95% when compared with an engine.
Equipped with two lithium battery systems as standard, the low voltage system is easily serviced, without the need for specialist high voltage training, and has been tested in climatic chambers between -77°F (-25°C) and +140°F (+60°C). A high frequency smart on-board 50A battery charger enables the lift to be fully charged within 5-8 hours, and it can be top-up charged throughout the day, as required.
Representing an industry-first, the new Snorkel SR626E delivers a maximum lifting capacity of 2,600kg, and a maximum lift height of up to 5.79m, while being completely zero emissions.
Matthew Elvin, CEO of Snorkel, says, “We are continuing to explore lithium electric technology, and are likely to expand its use into other suitable existing products, such as our S2255RT and S2755RT narrow compact rough terrain scissor lifts models and mid-size boom lifts in the future.
Snorkel has focused on electric powered equipment, rather than hybrid solutions. “We see lithium as a genuine diesel power replacement on small and mid-size units,” says Elvin, “Additionally, unlike hybrid, there is no fuel required on electric powered lifts, making them compliant with all jobsite emission requirements.”
“To power larger and heavier units, more energy is required, particularly to meet the requirement for a six-eight hour duty cycle between charges. This is typically when lithium batteries are selected, as they can deliver greater energy volume from a similar size and weight to lead acid batteries.
From a customer perspective, however, it is determined by where cost meets benefit, i.e. what level of technology is the customer happy to pay for. “Looking to the future, we expect to see lithium becoming a preferred power source, particularly as the cost of lithium batteries becomes more competitive,” adds Elvin.
Dingli modular launch
China-based manufacturer Dingli has launched its modular series of electric articulating boom lifts worldwide.
Dingli revealed one of the models, the 28m EAB28ERT, to a crowd of almost 1,500 clients, including 700 rental company representatives, at Zhejiang Deqing Mogan Mountain Airport.
The company’s new electric line comprises seven models in total, matching the company’s line of seven diesel-powered boom lift models. The modular design of the platforms means that the electric models share 95% of the same components and 80% of the same structural parts as their combustion engine-powered counterparts, making it suitable for the rental market.
Dingli’s low noise and zero-emission electric platforms feature a 80V lithium battery and both quick and slow recharge speeds. While the smallest platform in the electric series has a working height of 24.3m, the largest in the platform range has a maximum working height of 30.3m and load capacity of 454kg.
Genie has chosen the hybrid route with its FE (fuel/electric) range of boom lifts and sees the hybrid option as the relevant choice in the larger rough terrain arena. A recent launch is the Z-45 FE articulated boom, the smaller sibling of the Z-60 FE boom, launched at Bauma 2019. Also launched at the same time was the direct electric drive Genie GS-4655 scissor lift. And, just before that, Genie introduced its first direct electric drive slab scissor lift, the Genie GS-1330m model, at Bauma China in 2018.
The Z-45 FE, like the Z-45/25 DC, can be operated in all-electric mode indoors. However, the FE also comes standard with 4-wheel AC direct electric drive, oscillating axles and non-marking rough terrain tyres for outdoor, off-road.
Zach Gilmor, Genie product manager, Terex AWP, says, “We find that customers are increasingly realising that the divisions that used to separate outdoor (diesel) machines from indoor (electric) machines were never meant to benefit them. These divisions were a result of a technology challenge that had not yet been solved.”
Long term, says Gilmor, more powertrains are likely to move toward full electrification, as fully electric aerial products continue to evolve with battery technology and jobsite charging infrastructure. “During this period of transition, Genie has chosen to offer the flexibility of offering both hybrid and full electric powertrains to our customers,” says Gilmor.
Looking at larger equipment, Gilmor considers the reality of the market. “Just because it is physically possible to make a model fully electric, doesn’t necessarily mean this is the correct approach. A well-designed hybrid system may be a better candidate for larger machines with today’s technology. Because hybrid technology is scalable, jobsite requirements can drive which technology makes sense in the future.”
Airo’s most recent launch is the hybrid articulated A18 JRTH Plus boom, first presented at the GIS show in Piacenza, Italy, in October 2019.
The A18 JRTH Plus, complements the existing A18 JRTD Plus diesel version, and is designed for increased performance on construction sites through silent working even on rough terrain, thanks to its lithium iron-phosphate battery pack, which powers a 4WD/4WS full electric transmission.
A low power diesel generator recharges the battery, either automatically when the battery is running low or when the operator chooses. Using the on-board charger, the battery can be full in four hours. In the absence of mains power, the generator can be coupled with the model’s Supercharger guaranteeing a complete recharging in two hours, when the machine is at a standstill.
Up to three people can occupy the basket, which has a 400kg capacity, and a minimum capacity of 300kg at a full working height of 18.5m and 10m outreach.
The machine control system is completely new; a graphic touch screen display guarantees full control of all functions as well as complete diagnostics of all devices present without the need for external tools such as computers or calibrators. “From our point of view, lithium technology seems to be the most suitable for the development of new electrical and above all hybrid applications thanks to the absolute waterproofing of these batteries,” says Oscar Prigione, Airo sales manager.
From LGMG, and as part of the new booms range coming to the EU market in the third quarter, there will be the A14JE, and due to high demand, a smaller 9m platform height boom will be added to the fleet later this year.
Earlier this year LGMG launched the AS1413E, a versatile electric slab scissor with a working height of 16m, suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
LGMG’s electric slab scissors are designed to be rental-friendly with proportional descent, with indoor/outdoor use on many models, including the SS0407E and SS0507E, available in both hydraulic and electric with the option of a lithium battery.
To further strengthen the scissor range, the manufacturer plans to launch its SR0818E across Europe at the end of 2020. Ronan MacLennan, sales manager at LGMG Europe, explains, “We continue to monitor the developments within hybrid technology, currently its instability and unreliability does not fit with LGMG’s values. In addition, currently we do not see a demand in the market for hybrid machines, therefore the focus will continue to be on machines which have a high demand”
Therefore, he adds, there are no plans to launch any hybrid models in 2020. The focus will be on developing electric-powered models as LGMG believes this is the future of the industry. The company offers lead acid as standard, mainly driven by cost, customer familiarity and availability. It also offers lithium batteries as an option. “The trend towards lithium-ion batteries becoming accepted is clear and once costs start to come down, we expect to see the trend accelerate.”
MacLennan believes it is likely we will see 38m-plus boom lifts being offered as electric within the next five years; in the scissor market that should also stretch to 30m and higher.
Sinoboom has laready released 14m and 16m working height electric articulating boom lifts, which are now joined by an 18m electric and hybrid option. The hybrid GTZZ18HEJ and electric GTZZ18EJ were launched in June.
Sinoboom says it expects to launch 18m, 20m, 24m and 26m pure electric and hybrid telescopic boom lifts too. “Electric drive and hybrid products have higher efficiency, are friendly to the environment, and have stronger environmental adaptability. This is also the main R&D direction for the upgrading of products,” explains Gary Cai, product manager.
The electric-drive scissor series will be equipped with a networked IoT system. “We currently prefer the lithium battery product,” adds Cai, “Which has a large energy density and mature technology. In the future, we will continue to pay attention to the development of new energy technologies.”