What’s the future of construction vehicles?

Construction vehicles Ellis Fox Blog

In recent years construction vehicles have come under fire in terms of climate change concerns. Indeed because of their workloads most vehicles are traditionally diesel powered. Diesel is traditionally refined from fossil fuels and contains slightly more carbon than petroleum. Despite this it releases moderately less CO2 during combustion. However, all diesel vehicles are required to meet EU guidelines for emissions to enter and operate in London’s Low Emission Zone or pay a daily charge. The pressure has been gradually mounting to find alternate fuel sources that are cleaner. We take a look at some of the strategies main contractors are employing:

  1. Diesel from Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (HVO)

Sir Robert McAlpine recently announced that they are transitioning all of their diesel construction machinery to operate on HVO rather than fossil fuel diesel, and aim to achieve this by April 2022. This is part of their strategy to reduce carbon emissions on site. In addition to other strategies, they’ve also introduced a whole life carbon calculator to address their scope 3 emissions and assist clients in achieving reductions in their carbon footprint. These types of proactive strategies are exactly what’s needed in the construction industry. As more firms start to align their strategies with climate change goals it can only benefit the industry.

  1. Electric Vehicles

Volvo were one of the first vehicle manufacturers to turn their attention to electric heavy duty construction machinery. They started working on their first electric prototype in 2012 and now have a fleet of all electric construction machinery selling in 14 countries . Earlier this year, Renault entered the electric race, trialing their first all-electric construction trucks and cranes on site. More recently, Swedish firm Volta Trucks announced the development of their electric prototype construction trucks. While few main contractors have announced investing in all electric fleets, there’s increasing an opportunity to do so.

  1. Hydrogen hybrids and fuel cells

Main contractors working on HS2 have taken an approach of retrofitting construction vehicles to be hybrid or hydrogen powered with the aim of reducing emissions. In 2020 JCB construction equipment manufacturer announced they were testing a 20 tonne excavator powered by hydrogen. More recently Volvo and other manufacturers are also looking to hydrogen as a greener fuel alternative.

While most of these technologies have not reached industry wide adoption, it’s only a matter of time before these become the only options available, given new emissions laws and targets. This is the future of construction vehicles.