Signaling a major shift in its offerings, Volvo Construction Equipment is moving forward on a plan to convert to full electric power on its compact machines by 2020. The move is a part of a larger initiative in the Volvo Group, which encompasses Volvo CE, Volvo Trucks, Volvo Buses and engine-maker Volvo Penta. All are making huge strides toward electrification, with a hard 2020 deadline.  

“It was always part of our journey to bring out electric machines where they make sense,” Stephen Roy, president of Volvo CE, Americas, told ENR. “Right now we think compact equipment is a good place to start.”

The initial lineup will cover Volvo CE’s compact equipment, replacing the EC15 to EC27 compact excavators and L20 to L28 wheel loaders. The machines will retain their hydraulics, but diesel powertrains will be replaced with battery-based systems.

While the company will keep supporting their existing fleet of diesel-powered compact machines, 2020 represents a major break for Volvo CE’s supply chain. “In 2020 we stop further development of any new diesel engines, but we will have diesel engines available,” says Roy. “We will also roll out electric machines, so for a period of time we’ll have both.” Volvo CE’s policy of 10 to 15 years of aftermarket service and support for discontinued models will apply to all its diesel-powered machines, he adds.

Volvo Group has been talking about phasing out or reducing fossil-fuel powered machines in its lineups for some time, and Volvo CE has already shown off functional prototypes of what it calls Electromobility. “The technology we have been developing is now sufficiently robust,” said Volvo Group president Melker Jernberg in a press statement. “Now is the right time to commit to Electromobility in our compact equipment ranges in the future.”

In 2016 the company demonstrated a set of prototypes including a fully electric medium wheel loader and an electric, autonomous compact hauler. While neither of these machines entered production, they provided useful performance data, says Roy.

Volvo CE is not yet taking pre-orders for the machines, and will unveil the final models at the Bauma equipment trade exhibition in Munich in April. They will initially be manufactured at Volvo CE’s facility in Bellay, France, but production may shift if demand increases.