Electric vehicles are quickly becoming essential elements in personal and mass transportation sectors. In mobile machine segments, major suppliers in areas such as construction, warehousing, and off-highway are launching full electric and electric hybrid equipment in response to industry demands to lower carbon footprints and comply with stricter emissions regulations.

These trends are leading to technology innovations in a broad range of construction, agricultural, and other off-highway working vehicles. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), drivetrain providers, and other technology suppliers are designing and prototyping ways to use battery-powered electric drives and hybrid electric/diesel drives to move off-highway machines and power their implements.

The push for electrification does not mean the eventual replacement of hydraulics with electric motors will occur; instead, the industry will work toward ways to integrate electrics into off-highway platforms in the most effective ways possible, and to make maximum use of the power density and efficiency provided by hydraulics technology.

Rapidly Evolving Market for Electric-Driven Machines
In the lower-power segment with mobile machines, such as aerial work platforms, forklifts, and commercial lawnmowing systems, battery-electric drives are rapidly replacing combustion engines and even hybrid diesel-electric drivetrains. In most cases, the duty cycle and loads for this equipment allow the battery to be recharged overnight to support a full work shift the next day; this is due in part to improvements in both battery technology and electric motor power and efficiency.

The next round of electrification challenges lies within the larger machines, such as the heavy-duty construction, agricultural, and working machines that typically use diesel engines for their drivetrains and hydraulics to power their implements. This class of equipment is often referred to as the 700-Volt (V) machine class. Industry drivers that are leading to new investments in “electrifying” these kinds of machines include:

Read more: Mobile Hydraulics: Challenges and Opportunities