Balfour Beatty has gone all electric on a live site for the first time.
For a duration of six weeks, a team working to deliver its Edinburgh Biomes project at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh trialled an all-electric fleet.
In an update on its website, Balfour Beatty said it decided to work in the way in order to “push the boundaries of what is possible and familiarise ourselves with the next generation of telehandlers, excavators, dumpers, and wackers”.
It said one of the key challenges it have faced was around electric vehicle charging infrastructure and the availability of viable charging stations.
Further, as with electric cars and vans, it highlighted how electric plant is far more expensive to hire or purchase than traditional diesel machinery.
However, reduced fuel costs and maintenance requirements “can make it considerably more cost-effective in the long run”, Balfour Beatty said in the update.
It also pointed out that one of the main advantages of electric over diesel plant is they produce zero emissions.
From its recent trial, Balfour Beatty said it also noticed a clear difference in terms of air quality and noise pollution.
Although it noted many positives from the six-week trial, the infrastructure firm said all-electric plant isn’t yet a realistic option for its bigger sites – or for heavy plant.
This is because the required infrastructure does not currently exist to accommodate a fully electric fleet on a large scale, without a mains grid connection.
It said: “That’s why our view is that, for heavy plant, the priority for the industry has to be to accelerate the energy transition to hydrogen, rather than rely on electric providing the solution.
“We are leading the way in making combustion engines work with hydrogen fuel for medium-sized plant such as telehandlers and traditional diggers, through our partnership with JCB and Sunbelt Rentals.
“We are also working with GeoPura and Siemens Energy on hydrogen fuel cells to generate power without an electrical connection.
“The potential of this work is huge.”
Balfour Beatty added that the use of smaller- and medium-sized electric plant “is definitely something we will continue to pursue”.
Read next: Leeds to roll out nearly 100 more EV charging points
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