Hybrid, Electric, or Diesel: What Engine Should You Choose?
With so many models adapting to current needs and technology, it's easy to get overwhelmed when choosing between diesel, electric, and hybrid-engine equipment. However, looking at the engine's capabilities, and some of its use cases, is a great place to start.
Diesel engines are classic construction vehicle engines. The byproduct of diesel machines is CO2. However, stringent environmental standards and the industry's adoption of EV construction equipment have pushed manufacturers to design lower-emissions diesel equipment.
Electric heavy machinery runs on lithium-ion batteries and an electric motor. Electric vehicles are popular choices for projects that require low noise, vibrations, and no pollution. Due to these features, electric construction vehicles are a common choice for indoor projects. However, many brands offer electric models intended for rugged, outdoor use, which are comparable to diesel models.
Electric vs. Diesel Construction Equipment
Both diesel and electric equipment are well-equipped to perform multiple tasks. However, there are aspects of each engine that favor some work scenarios over others including indoor use, emission requirements, and power.
Based on emissions alone, electric engines may seem like the obvious choice. Electric vehicles have net-zero emissions and fuel contamination isn't a concern. But most recently manufactured diesel equipment upholds strict emissions standards, making them environmentally conscious options comparable to electric models.
The Environmental Protection Association (EPA) 's Tier 4 and EU Stage V are the most recent emissions standards that many equipment models adhere to. Tier 4 mandates that machines are almost net-zero, as it requires a minimum 90% of emission reduction of particulate matter, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.
When first manufactured, electric construction equipment was less powerful and better suited to work smaller jobs. It was, and sometimes still is, assumed that electric models are less powerful than their diesel counterparts. Earlier electric models may not have been powerful enough to handle heavy equipment's duty cycles. However, many manufacturers are producing excavators, wheel loaders, and other electric heavy equipment with equal power capabilities to diesel models.
Volvo's ECR25 excavator and L25 wheel loader are electric models with almost identical specs to their accompanying diesel models. Both electric models have higher operating weights but have the same specs with respect to capacity and power.
In comparison to electric engines, diesel engines have longer run times. These run times extend into the machine's idle time, which raises overall operating time and costs. An electric machine has a significantly lower run time, as the machine's engine shuts off as soon as the machine is powered off. However, automatic torque and machine reaction are faster in electric machines. The slight delay experienced on some diesel models can also increase engine run time.
Access to charging arrangements is the main operational factor to consider when choosing between an electric or diesel machine. Some job sites provide access to charging units, while other rural sites may not. It also is dependent on whether jobs are indoor or outdoor, or are going over rough terrain. Indoor jobs should not be using gas-powered equipment if possible, and sometimes the extra power is needed to go over that outdoor terrain.
You may even need to rent a charging unit in addition to renting the electric equipment itself. Voltage is another charging consideration, as most electric equipment can't simply be plugged into a wall. Volvo's larger electric equipment models require a 240 V charging network. Electric equipment adoption also leads to long-term fuel cost savings.
Maintenance Cost and Noise
Since electric engines only contain a battery and electric motor, there are fewer engine parts that require servicing. Whereas diesel machines have more moving parts that require frequent maintenance. However, because the technology in electric models is newer, it can be more expensive to repair or replace.
Diesel engines are known for being noisy. This can cause significant disruption to people and animals in the surrounding environment via sound and vibration. Electric models are much quieter and can be less disruptive.
If you're looking for the power density of diesel engines with the benefits of electric engines, then hybrid engines are the way to go. They come in handy on job sites where charging isn't accessible. They're basically a "best of both worlds" type of solution.
Hybrid construction equipment contains a small diesel engine, battery, and electric motor. This lowers the cost of fuel whilst keeping the electric battery running for longer. Hybrid engines also will produce fewer emissions and less noise.
A unique capability of hybrid engines is that they harness regenerated energy that usually escapes as heat. The engine takes energy as its being regenerated and uses it to run the machine. So, hybrid engines draw on fuel less than diesel engines by leveraging regenerated energy. This technology is responsible for the fuel cost savings experienced with hybrid models.
Hybrid equipment generally requires less maintenance, as they have fewer parts than comparable diesel models.
Which One Do You Choose?
The choice between hybrid, electric, and diesel engines is largely a personal one. Some people prefer the reliability of powerful diesel engines, while others want the next new hybrid model on site.
Even if you have a preference, you should consider the benefits that electric and hybrid models have, such as fuel efficiency, noise reduction, and reduced costs. How important each of these factors is to you will depend on the scope of your next project and charging availability. Happy shopping!
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