While the current surge in electric vehicle adoption is revolutionizing both passenger and commercial on-road vehicle fleets, a parallel transformation within the off-road equipment sector seems to be lagging behind. This discrepancy arises due to the diverse range of equipment categories and the various ways they are utilized off-road, which necessitates significant research and development efforts to electrify such machinery. Successfully transitioning these types of equipment to electric power can yield numerous advantages, including decreased levels of air and noise pollution, heightened energy efficiency, and improved productivity.
Off-road equipment refer to any non-stationary device, powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor, used primarily off the highways, to propel, move or draw persons or property including any device propelled, moved or drawn exclusively by human power, and used in, but not limited to the following applications: marine vessels, construction/ farm equipment, locomotives, utility engines and lawn and garden equipment, off-road motorcycles and off-highway vehicles.
Off-road equipment also known as highway equipment is a broad term that is used to explain the machinery which spends most of its time off-road. The type of equipment can range from large trucks used in mining to small agricultural machines, and everything in between. Construction and mining equipment operate in conditions that are hard on the components. Just the nature of the work they do exposes the vehicles to large amounts of contamination and debris that can cause damage especially to the hydraulics and gears which are sensitive to particulate contamination. Continually monitoring the oil condition can prevent unexpected breakdowns. The off-highway and agricultural segment needs specialized expertise to meet new challenges. Be it handling more load or free moving on the roads, the off-highway segment is constantly evolving and onward is geared up to support it with design as well as manufacturing solutions,
While the challenges faced by passenger EVs, like limited range and charging infrastructure, have been gradually addressed, a substantial amount of work has been undertaken in electrifying on-road vehicles, ranging from light-duty cars to heavy duty trucks. In contrast, off-road equipment used in construction and agriculture has received less attention despite its potential to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, spurred by stringent regulations.
Regulations in the United States and the European Union (EU) have prompted off-road equipment manufacturers to explore electrification due to emission reduction demands. The Tier and Stage emission standards in the US and EU, respectively, have become increasingly stringent over time, pushing manufacturers to adopt advanced engine technologies. Electrification approaches such as mid hybridization and battery electrification are now being pursued to meet these demands. California has set an ambitious target of achieving zero-emission heavy duty vehicles by 2045, driving the need for electric heavy-duty machinery development.
Efforts in electrifying off-road construction and agricultural equipment have primarily focused on diesel-electric and hybrid powertrains, with some endeavours towards battery electrification. However, adapting electrification technologies from on-road vehicles to off-road equipment presents challenges due to unique working conditions. Hybrid systems from on-road EVs might not translate directly to hybrid excavators due to varying environments. Furthermore, off-road equipment components must withstand greater impact and vibration compared to their on-road counterparts. Power electronics, for example, need to endure elements like mud and water, while the ruggedness of hydrogen tanks in off-road fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) must ensure integrity even under impact.