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EXCON 2023: Electric, H2 solutions ready for Indian CE, off-highway segments

At one of the largest exposition of construction machinery and off-highway vehicles in India, OEMs and technology suppliers presented a variety of battery-electric and hydrogen ICE technology-powered machines that are ready for commercial adoption. 

JCB's hydrogen-powered '3DX' backhoe loader on display at EXCON 2023 expo. Source: JCB

The Indian construction equipment (CE) and off-highway (mining) segments are at the cusp of a transformational opportunity towards decarbonization and sustainability, as exemplified by a strong line-up of battery-electric and hydrogen-powered equipment and powertrain solutions displayed at the EXCON 2023 that opened this week at Bengaluru, India. 

Claimed as South Asia's largest construction equipment trade fair, the EXCON 2023 is organized by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), in association with the government ministries and Indian Construction Equipment Manufacturers' Association (ICEMA). 

The expo displayed latest products and technological innovations from OEMs and tech suppliers for the construction, material handling, material transportation and mining industries, with special attention to emission reduction, operational efficiency, and sustainable energy this year. 

One of the last and most complicated segments to electrify, the construction equipment and off-highway vehicles represent a huge chunk of emission source across the globe. With stringent emission standards and quest for alternative, low-emission powertrains, the industry is gradually embracing newer technologies including low-carbon fuels, battery-electric, hydrogen combustion, and H2 fuel cell. 

This global megatrend was noticeable in the Indian expo as well, with equipment makers and powertrain suppliers presenting their electrified and zero-emission solutions. Although these solutions were confined to select categories or sub-segments, compact machines such as loaders, site dumpers or telehandlers in particular, the interest showed by the companies and commercial buyers proved that the shift to cleaner technologies is very real and quite imminent.


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Electrification mode 'ON'

Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) India led the 'electrification' theme with a biggest line-up of electric solutions at EXCON this year. The company's display included the following: 

  • EC500 Electric, claimed as India's first grid-connected electric excavator in the 50-ton class for mining and construction, debuting for the first time in the country
  • EC80 Electric and compact EC55 Electric excavators for urban construction and forestry, with superior battery performance of 6-8 hours
  • L120 Electric wheel loader for material handling and construction activities
  • DD40 and PT220 electric compactors, designed for and in India
  • A mobile power unit to fast-charge electric machines, featuring 60 kWh battery pack and 30 kW DC fast charging gun, mounted on a pick-up truck

We go beyond offering products; we drive a paradigm shift with innovative electric solutions and comprehensive sustainability support. By making sustainable options accessible and desirable, we aim to leave a lasting legacy of positive change

Dimitrov Krishnan, Managing Director of Volvo CE India

The company claims that its electric machines offer superior performance and reliability on par with diesel-powered machines, especially suited for environment-sensitive work environments for cleaner and quieter construction operations. 

Chinese heavy equipment maker SANY debuted a slew of electrified products "in pursuit of innovative solutions that redefine industry standards and contribute to environmental sustainability". This included the following: 

  • SW956E electric wheel loader with 282/ 350 kWh battery capacity options and fast-charging capabilities. 
  • SY870E electric excavator with 370 kW power and 6 kV AC asynchronous motor for higher work efficiency than diesel systems
  • SRSC45E3 Electric reach stacker for material handling applications
  • STC600T 5-P Hybrid truck-mounted crane that can operate in pure-electric mode 

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At the show, CASE Construction Equipment presented its 1.5-ton electric mini excavator CX15 EV for the Indian audience. The excavator offers the same power and performance as diesel-powered machines, with adjustable operating modes and attachments, the company claimed.

On the other hand, JCB presented its latest generation JCB19C-1E electric mini excavator powered by lithium-ion batteries at the expo. Action Construction Equipment (ACE), on its part, displayed its F150 EV all-electric mobile crane, while L&T Komatsu presented its latest PC3000-6 electric-hydraulic shovel for the Indian market.

Tata Hitachi was in spotlight for showcasing India's first indigenously-developed E Electric mini-excavator, along with ZAXIS 55-6EB battery-electric excavator. Bullwork Mobility, an EV start-up, also gained attention for the launch of what was called as India's first electric skid-steer loader 'GLX' at the expo. 

Tata Hitachi's state-of-the-art electric machines are a demonstration of the technical prowess of our team and our parent company Hitachi Construction Machinery (HCM) in addressing emergent market requirements. At the same time this also fulfils our environmental obligations to ensure that development and progress do not come at the cost of a sustainable future for coming generations

Sandeep Singh, Managing Director at Tata Hitachi
Moreover, Propel Industries unveiled two heavy-duty electric dump truck 470 MEV and 470 HEV of 45 and 60-ton GVW respectively. Commercial operators can choose between 171 kWh or 450 kWh battery pack options, supported by fast-charging. The manufacturer is giving a battery warranty of 5 years or 4000 cycles. The trucks can operate for 6 to 12 hours on a single charge.

On the supplier side, ZF unveiled its 'eTRAC' electric drive system compact loaders and dumpers, 'eCD' (electric Central Drive) system for backhoe loaders together with a two-speed powershift transmission, and 'eTRAC' eCD110-210 series for mid-sized wheel loaders, with an electro-mechanical powershift transmission and traction motors. 

Dana, meanwhile, presented its two of its electrified solutions, namely Spicer 'ElectrifiedTM' eSP502 ideal for wheel loader, load haul dumper and telehandler, and Spicer 'ElectrifiedTM' e-Hub Drive meant for Arial Work Platforms (AWPs).
Electric dump trucks on display at the expo. Source: Propel Industries

Hydrogen for off-highway

As was the case in Auto Expo 2023, hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) technology emerged as a distinctive and promising technology at EXCON 2023 for decarbonizing the CE and off-highway applications. JCB debuted its hydrogen engine technology for the first time for the Asian audience in India, with the display of its quintessential JCB '3DX' backhoe loader and 'Loadall' telescopic handler machines powered by this H2 technology. 

It is to be noted that the company's £100 million project to produce super-efficient hydrogen engines is finally production-ready, with over prototypes already operational in global markets. The company claims that its H2 engines deliver similar power, torque, efficiency performance as diesel engines, with less use of rare-earth resources and easier transition for end-users. 

India has a real opportunity to put hydrogen at the very centre of its net zero future – it is a clean zero carbon fuel which can be produced from renewable energy. India is endowed with sun and water resources, the two key elements required for producing hydrogen. It is a fuel that allows for fast refueling and is a mobile fuel solution, that can be taken to the machine. Our machines work long hours, particularly in India, so minimizing downtime to recharge or refuel is essential. As such, hydrogen is a perfect solution for India, particularly for the earthmoving sector

Lord Bamford, Chairman of JCB

The expo also saw Indian CV manufacturer Ashok Leyland and powertrain developer Cummins presenting their respective 'H6' and 'B6.7H' hydrogen combustion engine and for off-highway vehicles and machines respectively.  

A host of component suppliers and system integrators were also present at the expo to exhibit their innovations in the field of electrification and hydrogen transition. On the whole, the EXCON 2023 has undeniably opened up new and viable avenues for the Indian CE and off-highway segments to tackle the emission and sustainability issues in their work environments. 


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