CASE Construction Equipment recently unveiled “Project Zeus” — the 580 EV (electric vehicle) — the construction industry’s first fully electric backhoe loader. The power and performance of the 580 EV is equivalent to other diesel-powered backhoes in the CASE product line and provides considerably lower daily operating costs while also producing zero emissions — a motivating factor for utility and government contractors incentivized to work with equipment that leverages alternative fuels and lowers emissions.
City governments and municipalities will also benefit from the elimination of emissions for working in urban environments and close to other buildings/people, as well as the reduced noise generated by the equipment.
Two units have already been sold to utilities in the United States — NYSEG and RG&E, AVANGRID companies, and National Grid. CASE has the capability to produce additional units throughout 2020 before ramping up production to meet greater demand in following years. “CASE built the very first factory-integrated backhoe loader in 1957 and has been at the forefront of backhoe innovation,” says Leandro Lecheta, head of construction equipment — North America, CNH Industrial. “The 580 EV is a significant step forward in our commitment to sustainability, the evolution of earthmoving equipment and truly practical innovation that drives real savings and competitive advantages for backhoe owners.”
“The backhoe loader is perfectly suited for electrification as the varied use cycles, from heavy to light work, provide an excellent opportunity to convert wasted diesel engine hours into zero consumption battery time — yet provide the operator with instantaneous torque response when needed,” says Eric Zieser, director — global compact equipment product line, CASE. “At low idle a diesel engine has reduced torque and requires time for the engine to ramp up to meet the load demands. Electric motors, on the other hand, have instantaneous torque and peak torque available at every operating speed.”
The 580 EV is the second major alternative-powered machine introduced by CASE — the manufacturer rolled out the FPT Industrial methane-powered concept wheel loader ProjectTETRA at Bauma 2019. Electrification was performed in conjunction with Green Machine Equipment, Inc. and Moog Inc., and with direct input from utilities and other businesses focused on converting significant portions of their fleets to fully electric backhoes. CASE also partnered with Michelin® to outfit the first-of-its-kind machine with specialized MICHELIN CrossGrip tires for even greater efficiency and handling.
Electrification ideal for utilities, urban environments
The 580 EV is powered by a 480-volt, 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged by any 220-volt/three-phase connection. While applications will vary, each charge will support most common eight-hour workdays. The battery separately powers the drivetrain and hydraulic motors, resulting in hydraulic breakout forces equal to diesel-powered machines and improved performance during simultaneous loader and drivetrain operation.
Utilities, utility contractors, as well as government and public works operations, are well suited for the 580 EV as they generally have initiatives aimed at lowering emissions, reducing noise in public workspaces and finding new ways to work within budgets. Contractors who bid work in states where even greater regulations are in place — such as New York, California and Florida — may also benefit from deploying electric backhoes in their fleet. Many contractors in these sectors either road or trailer these machines back to a central shop or yard at the end of the day, making it easy to plug into existing electrical infrastructure, or to develop charging stations in a controlled yard. Utilities who operate their own backhoe fleets can power each machine off of the electricity they generate, essentially operating the machine at cost.
Sustainable for budgets and the environment
The 580 EV operates with zero emissions — lowering the total carbon footprint for its owners. These are important environmental considerations, but the new backhoe also helps improve fiscal sustainability.
While every application will be different based on its workload, it is estimated that the 580 EV could save fleets as much as 90 percent in annual vehicle service and maintenance costs when taking into account the reduction/elimination of diesel, engine oil, diesel exhaust fluid, regular preventive maintenance and long-term engine upkeep/maintenance (and the associated labor rates and time savings).
Some utilities and contractors are incentivized to deploy electric equipment and vehicles in their fleets, providing even greater financial benefit and further lowering the total cost of ownership.
Operating electric construction equipment may make contractors eligible for work they may have otherwise been unable to bid on, expanding their business opportunities and allowing them to win more work each year.
While the 580 EV will be sold at a higher initial price than diesel-powered backhoe loaders, it is estimated that average fleets will see a payback on that premium in roughly five years. All savings achieved after that will go to improve the bottom line and continue to lower the operation’s carbon footprint.
Each 580 EV comes standard with CASE SiteWatch™ telematics for additional monitoring and management of machine performance and utilization.