In the latest move by major equipment makers to electrify their fleets, Komatsu has announced a partnership with electric battery manufacturer Proterra on an all-electric excavator. The two companies will collaborate on a proof-of-concept excavator in 2021, with an eye on moving to commercial production of fully electrified small to medium-sized excavators in 2023 or 2024. 

The collaboration is the first OEM partnership for Burlingame, Calif.-based Proterra in the off-road vehicle market. The company manufactures its own fully electric transit buses, and has previously provided its battery and electric powertrain technology to other OEMs for on-road applications.

“The batteries we designed for our own transit bus and other commercial vehicles have great applications,” says Claire McConnell, vice president of strategic partnerships at Proterra. “They’re highly rugged, have a high cycle life and can go many more miles than the average passenger car.” 

In a press statement, Seiichi Fuchita, president of Komatsu’s development division said: “I am excited about the collaboration with Proterra, by which Komatsu will drive the electrification of construction equipment."

Komatsu has set the goal of reducing its CO2 emissions by 50% by 2030 from 2010 levels. The equipment manufacturer has previously introduced hybrid machines with reduced emissions and offers a electric mini-excavator for the Japanese rental market, but these battery-powered excavators are its first major foray into full-size, electric heavy equipment.

“We’ve publicly stated that we’re working with Komatsu on batteries, but they are definitely working hand-in-hand with us to integrate the system,” says Proterra’s McConnell. Komatsu has not disclosed what size class the battery-powered excavator will be used in, but McConnell says Proterra’s battery system is notable for its modular design, which allows for customization of power output and voltage, as well as battery size and shape.

“It’s going to be different from [what we use in] transit buses. I believe our batteries are well suited for this—we can get the right-sized battery packs to meet the demands of [Komatsu’s] drivetrain,” she adds.

Proterra manufacturers its batteries in California, but McConnell says the company has largely been able to avoid COVID-19-related production disruptions over the past year due to its essential business designation. She expects Proterra will be able to meet production demand for the Komatsu partnership despite the ongoing pandemic.