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Increasing droughts, wildfires and record temperatures across the globe are underlining the reality of climate change and, according to Maarten Vermeiren, product marketing manager sustainability and digitalisation at Atlas Copco Portable Air, the construction industry must respond by switching to electric
Melting roads, flash fires and water shortages – this is the world we have to get used to if we don’t cut our CO2 output. With the world sweltering in the sun it’s getting harder to deny that climate change isn’t real – or that humans aren’t playing an outsized part in that change. For those of us in the construction equipment industry, we can make a difference – but we need to act fast.
At Atlas Copco Portable Air we’ve been making machines powered by diesel engines for almost a century. We know everything there is to know about diesel and the internal combustion engine. In line with our vision of delivering the most sustainable solutions for tough applications, in just the last decade alone we have made our engines more efficient and cut emissions drastically. But as much as we love the internal combustion engine, it’s clear that the future is electric.
Today almost all construction equipment uses diesel engines. This has to change – and change faster than the normally conservative industry is comfortable with. Manufacturers are launching electric alternatives – but the adoption rates are often lukewarm. Mobile compressors are one of the success stories of the energy transformation. At Atlas Copco Portable Air our E-Air electric portable compressors have been warmly received. With most sites having access to electricity the need to plug the compressor in isn’t seen as an issue.
The E-Air electric compressors produce no CO2, are quiet and are lighter and smaller for easier transport. Although the initial investment is higher over their lifetime, they are radically cheaper to own – at least 65% less than a diesel powered equivalent. With hardly any moving parts, electric portable compressors need far less maintenance (service every 2,000 hours compared to 500 hours for diesel) and last much longer – up to seven times longer compared to a diesel engine. And with 90%+ efficiency, an electric motor leaves a diesel engine’s 35% efficiency in the dust.
Saying goodbye to the diesel engine will be hard. But there is no question that if we are going to do our bit in preventing the world overheating, the future of construction equipment is electric. There may not be an electric alternative for every application yet, but the technology will soon fill in any gaps. What is a bigger challenge is changing mindsets and breaking away from convention. And acting now – we all have to be part of the solution for a better tomorrow.