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For remote operation, the mini can be controlled using a smartphone via a Bluetooth connection.

Electrifying innovation

As more research is undertaken to produce electric vehicles and other machines, Volvo has revealed a concept all-electric mini excavator. Nick Johnson reports.

Inventor James Dyson has announced that his company is working on an electric car and EasyJet aims to fly electric planes within a decade. Meanwhile, common non-operated construction equipment has not been left out of the race to become all-electric. The Volvo Group has been busy developing not only electric trucks for local goods distribution, but also a 100% electric mini excavator. Designated the EX2, the battery- powered machine was recently revealed during Volvo Group Innovation Summits held in Brussels and London.

The EX2 weighs in at 2.7 tonnes.

The full-sized EX2 working prototype has been developed to deliver zero emissions, have high efficiency and operate almost silently. At the Brussels

Summit, it was demonstrated to delegates on a concrete plaza outside the meeting centre, right in front of the windows of an adjacent upmarket restaurant. However, the diners, whilst bemused, were not disturbed as the machine operates so quietly.

This futuristic mini is a Volvo Concept Lab project. Weighing 2.7 tonnes and providing a maximum digging depth of 2.5m, it has been developed over the last three years at the Volvo CE factory in Belley, France, aided by a French government grant. Like a standard machine, it has a fully enclosed cab, boom offset and a front dozer blade. Fully electric, it does not have a diesel engine, diesel particulate filter, fuel tank, hydraulic oil tank or hydraulic pumps, motors or cylinders. Instead it has a 19kW Lithium-ion battery to power its electric motors and electro-mechanical actuators in place of traditional hydraulic cylinders.

The actuators operate the bucket, dipper arm, boom, boom offset and dozer blade functions, and each uses an electric motor with reduction gearing and a planetary roller screw to provide linear movement. The bucket electro-mechanical actuator is concealed within the dipper arm, and the boom actuator is top-mounted to prevent site damage.


According to EX2 Project Leader, Ahcene Nedjimi, the all-electric mini provides the same digging performance as a similar-sized diesel machine. He emphasises the additional benefits of silent operation, no harmful emissions and no risk of hydraulic oil spills. He further contends that the whole machine is much more efficient and that the electric actuators provide greater precision than hydraulic cylinders.

Usefully, the machine provides energy recovery so that, as the boom is lowered, electricity is returned to the battery. Ahcene Nedjimi states that the EX2 can operate for eight hours without recharging in normal working conditions and that, for more intense tasks, another battery can be added to extend the time between charges. Recharging from the grid using the socket at the rear is said to take five hours, but this can apparently be shortened to as little as 30 minutes using a dedicated fast-charging point

The EX2 can be driven conventionally by a seated operator using the digitally controlled joysticks in the cab or by remote control. At the Brussels demonstration, the excavator was operated by its driver using a smartphone and a special app via a Bluetooth connection whilst standing well away from the machine - a big bonus for potentially dangerous jobs like demolition.

The machine uses electro-mechanical actuators in place of hydraulic cylinders.

The development project will now continue with the addition of powered attachment functionality and safety sensors around the machine. Although no date has been set for the concept to come to market, Volvo states that it is considering the future production of fully electric minis weighing from 1.5 to 5 tonnes.

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