At a Glance:

In the energy debate, hydraulic systems are framed as inefficient energy hogs.
Newer advancements, including electrohydraulic technologies, are well-suited for certain uses.
OEMs are targeting new hydraulic system architectures that can incorporate electronics in off-highway equipment for increasing efficiencies and maximizing effectiveness.
When major automakers announced a pivot to electric vehicles last year, their collective declaration marked an inflection point.

GM demarcated its shift toward widescale EV production with a corporate logo change. The new logo featuring the letters “gm” in lowercase, noted the automaker, ushers in a new vision for “a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion.” The letter “m” was purportedly underlined as a nod to the company’s Ultium battery cell platform.

More than a shift in tone, electrification is playing a pivotal role in the transformation of mobility. Many OEMs have set end dates for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. In the U.S., new regulatory targets aim for an EV share of at least 50% by 2030.

Electricity use is expanding at twice the rate of any other form of energy and drives an imperative to deliver smart, safe and sustainable transport systems and solutions. As emission standards around the world grow more stringent, the pressure mounts to create more efficient electric and hybrid vehicle solutions. The recently enacted infrastructure bill is allocating more than $7 billion in funding across the battery supply chain for battery materials refining, processing and components manufacturing.

Yet, despite the all-out push for electrification, practical and technological hurdles continue to hamper EV sales, including the limited range on these vehicles and the dearth of charging infrastructure. In 2020 there were roughly 25,000 Level 2 fast-charging stations in the U.S., compared to 115,000 gas stations.

Consider the zero emissions equation. Even if 50% of vehicles are electric by 2030, the obvious query remains: What happens to the remaining 50%?

Fluid power experts tell us that the ambition and demand required from regulatory emissions targets still outpace the speed at which the industry can optimize returns from electrification. In a recent interview with Power & Motion, Eric Alstrom, president of Danfoss Power Solutions said the trend is encroaching on all segments of the fluid power industry. “What we’ve learned during the pandemic is that, especially now with significantly increasing supply chain costs, it makes perfect sense both for our flexibility but also from a cost perspective to be more local,” he said.

Read more: Electrohydraulic Disruption: New Technologies Steer the Way Forward