Battery Storage, CEA, Electric Excavators, Electric Machinery, Excavators, JCB, Site Dumpers, Sustainability in Earthmoving, Telehandlers

On the charge: JCB

JCB’s range of electric construction equipment continues to grow, and the Australian market is starting to take notice.

With sustainability an increasingly hot topic in the construction world, equipment manufacturers like JCB are working hard to provide viable alternatives to traditional diesel engines.

And as evident in its Road to Zero sustainability strategy and action plan, JCB has long been at the forefront of innovation in alternative fuel sources.

JCB unveiled the first models in its fully electric range in 2018 and since then, the machines have been gradually making their way to Australian shores. This started in 2019 with the arrival of the first JCB 19-C1E – the industry’s first fully electric mini excavator.

JCB CEA already has the resources in place to support its electric products. Image: JCB CEA

The JCB 19-C1E has since been joined by electric access platforms, an electric site dumpster, and more.

Greg Sealey, General Manager of Distribution at CEA, says alternative fuel powered machinery is where the global markets are going, but expects it will be a gradual transformation.

“When it comes to electric machinery, as with motor vehicles, things are starting with smaller equipment,” he says.

According to Greg, for all manufacturers, one obvious barrier to the early adoption of this newer technology is the price.

“All OEMs are dealing with that same issue,” he says. “The cost of these machines is certainly up there – sometimes two/two-and-a-half times the price of the diesel equivalent.

Greg says JCB’s electric excavators can deliver a full day’s work. Image: JCB CEA

“But there’s definitely demand building for them, for use in specific applications.”

While for some, putting an electric machine on a project could be a simple way to tick sustainability boxes, Greg says more contracts for large government jobs are starting to demand the use of electric technology.

Part of this, he suspects, comes down to the other benefits associated with electric machinery – not just the desire for a clear environmental conscience.

“If you’re working in a hospital, an undercover car park without much ventilation, or a shopping centre or school – anywhere where noise or pollution is an issue – that’s where people are looking to these types of options,” Greg says.

In such environments, Greg says electric machinery could go beyond “nice-to-have” to being the only viable option. He points to JCB’s site dumpers – which are available in both diesel and electric models.

“People may ask why you’d pay twice the price for the electric version,” he says. “But in some of these indoor environments – you’ll either be using an electric site dumper or you’ll be using a wheelbarrow.”

Greg also sees the potential for strong uptake with customers who work on a lot of tunnel projects across Australia.

“They don’t want diesel engines running in those tunnels, because it can be a real struggle to get rid of the fumes,” he says.

The new 525-60E telehandler is the latest addition to JCB’s electric fleet. Image: JCB CEA

Completing the circuit

Greg expects new JCB Electric machines to keep making their way over to Australia as demand increases, along with CEA’s understanding of the local electric machinery market.

Most recently, CEA introduced JCB’s 525-60E compact telehandler into Australia, which is quickly gaining traction in the rental market.

And with demand also building across the broader range, Greg says CEA is already well positioned to provide support and service for JCB’s electric machines.

“We had two technicians specially trained in the UK, who then came back and trained our team here,” he says.

“You’re playing with electricity, so it’s quite a different thing. You can’t necessarily just train up a diesel mechanic on these machines – they need to be certified to work on electric products.”

Greg says CEA was lucky to have a head-start in this regard, with its technicians already supporting other brands within its portfolio.

“That was a big bonus for us,” he says. “We do a lot with generators, so we already had electrical technicians in our service team to start with.”

A powerful range

The question of battery life is always the first thing Greg is asked about JCB’s electric range. He says this can be tricky to quantify, and suggests the industry should needs to start reframing this discussion.

“I’ll get asked if the electric mini excavator will run for eight hours,” he says. “JCB’s official answer is that it’ll do a day’s work.”

He says this doesn’t necessarily correlate to a certain number of operational hours, due to the fundamental differences between electric and diesel technology.

“With electric machines, until you’re actually travelling on it or pulling a lever to dump a load, it’s not using any power,” he says.
“They don’t idle as such either – they just sit there not drawing power until you push the lever.”

And for situations where the machines are required to work longer hours, JCB has solutions available such as fast chargers and portable lithium battery packs – the latter of which can also be used to power light towers and other auxiliary gear.

Always innovating

For all the research and development JCB is putting into electric technology, Greg says the company is also realistic about its limitations.

“Realistically, if you tried to power a 20-tonne excavator with batteries, you’d need a 20-tonne battery pack being pulled along behind it,” he says.

“That’s not viable, at least with the current technology that’s out there.”

Such limitations might not pose such logistical concerns in the not-too-distant future. But in the meantime, Greg says JCB continues its diverse approach to green innovation, giving its customers around the world the freedom to mix and match to suit their needs.

“No one technology is perfect, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution yet,” Greg says.

“That’s why, from a JCB perspective, they’re still working to reduce diesel engine emissions as much as they can, developing a range of hydrogen solutions, and going electric where it makes sense.”

For more on the JCB Electric range, visit:


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