Excavation Evaluation: Is Electrical As Good As Diesel?

22 May 2024

Excavators have been in the construction business since time immemorial, and today, in a world with a focus on environmental benefits, cost efficiency, and reduction in noise pollution, a lot of construction leaders have been wondering whether an electric excavator is worth it. After all, its market size is expected to go beyond 275 billion by 2036.

In that respect, here is a quick rundown of the benefits and drawbacks of both so that you can make your own, well-researched decision for your construction projects.

Electric vs Diesel Excavators: Who Wins?

While the growth of electric excavator use is large, this doesn’t make it the best choice by default. There’s a reason why diesel machines are still heavily in use – they are reliable and construction leaders know it. So, it’s worth taking an objective view to make the best choice.

Electric the Benefits:

Environmental Friendliness

The electric excavator has zero emissions, which makes them the best option for the eco-friendly. With many construction leaders expressing eco-friendliness as a priority for their sites, electrical excavators are a good way to set an example.

Enhanced Comfort

Due to less vibrations, emissions, and greater visibility (electrical excavators have cameras, larger windows etc), electrical excavators have the ergonomic advantage. This also makes them easier and more precise to drive, which leads to greater safety and productivity.

Quieter Operations

Electrical excavators are significantly quieter than their diesel counterparts, which is great for built-up areas and suburbs, where the regulation of noise pollution is more strict. This makes a better working environment for operators and other members of your team but also for building relationships with communities and changing the perception of construction sites.

Diesel the Benefits:

Power & Torque

Diesel excavators are well known for their power and torque output, making them great for heavy-duty tasks such as excavating in rough terrain, lifting heavy loads, and breaking through concrete and rock. There is a debate ongoing about whether electrical models can match this power, and many of them are thought to be just as capable in terms of power.

Operating Range

Diesel models do not require batteries and frequent recharging (electrical models do). As long as you have a fuel source, you can go on excavating until your heart’s content. In a more practical sense, you can take diesel excavators to off-grid locations without issue, whereas electrical models will require a form of power source in all environments.

Proven Reliability

Diesel excavators have been around for a long while and have proven their capabilities tenfold. We know that their strong designs make them capable of withstanding harsh conditions like severe temperatures, moisture and dust, and that they are durable in terms of time too. They also need more maintenance than electrical models, as their components are more complex.

Pricing Information

Upon purchase, electrical excavators are more expensive than diesel models, and can range anywhere from $5,000 for a mini excavator (fewer than 6 tons) to $50,000 and much higher for larger excavators capable of lifting over 10 tons.

But this is deceptive. Electrical excavators require less maintenance than diesel models while also being cheaper fuel-wise, due to their electrical charging components. Also, a lot of maintenance required for electric diggers can be completed on-site.

In a sentence, electronics are more expensive upfront but may save money in the long-term. Reverse this logic for diesel.

The Verdict: Can Electrical Excavators Cut the Mustard?

Due to their advancements in technology in terms of battery tech, control systems and electrical motors, modern electrical excavators have impressive power and torque outputs and have even reached a point of being comparable to diesel models. In short, yes, they are capable of doing the work, with the exception of having to be recharged frequently and to have maintenance performed on them.

In certain situations, diesel excavators are more reliable, but the electrical models are creeping up there in terms of capability, on top of the environmental, ergonomic, and cost-efficient advantages.

In short, both have their benefits and which one is best for your site should be decided based on the needs of the projects, the area you are in, and the toughness of the task in hand.

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