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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Five things you might not know about batteries


Magnus Larsson sheds some light on the use of lithium-ion batteries in construction equipment 

BATTERIES are an important part of modern life and now Volvo Construction Equipment are starting to use them to power their machines – but how much do you actually know about them? Magnus Larsson, development engineer batteries with Volvo Electromobility Systems, presents five facts about the lithium-ion batteries that are being used in construction equipment.

1. They look nothing like conventional batteries
To power a wheel loader or an excavator, a high level of system voltage and energy is needed, which is more than a single battery cell (chocolate bar size) can provide. Volvo CE generally take multiple cells and connect them together to create a battery pack. Looking at them, they are just big boxes – but there is a lot going on inside.

2. Batteries come in all shapes and forms
You can buy a complete battery pack unit from a supplier or you can assemble sub-modules and incorporate them into a custom-fit pack unit, or you can build everything in house from scratch. Battery packs are sized and shaped differently for different machine types.

3. They are surprisingly big
Large vehicles require large battery capacity – there is no great surprise there. The lithium-ion battery packs Volvo CE use in construction equipment can weigh more than 400kg. For large machines, in particular, there might be a need to install more than one of these battery packs, so the overall battery weight could easily exceed one tonne.

However, with lithium-ion batteries, significant progress is being made with respect to energy density. Developers are working on lighter and more volume-efficient batteries. This essentially means that it will be possible to get more energy for the same volume or get the same energy capacity more cheaply

4. They are becoming cheaper
At present, lithium-ion batteries are still quite expensive, but the price is constantly falling. If the price continues to decrease at this rate, the cost barriers to electromobility innovation within the construction equipment industry will significantly reduce. This price decrease is a result of two factors: more battery demand globally and, as mentioned earlier, an increase in energy density.

5. We are at the turning point where it makes sense to electrify big machines
With current technology, compact machines – such as Volvo CE’s recently announced range of electric compact wheel loaders and excavators – can put in a full day’s work on electric energy from batteries. Bigger machines are just starting to reach this stage. Although regular recharging is still required, it is now a matter of when, not if, electric batteries can meet the energy and power requirements of heavy construction machines.

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