Zach Gilmor - Product Manager
Oct 21, 2022, 01:00 AM
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Electric aerial equipment is not new, but there are some new trends in the industry. First, a growing number of contractors are looking for lower-emission solutions to meet changing jobsite requirements. Second, more machines are coming in electric models, such as larger boom lifts.
We at Genie have been hearing from contractors and other equipment users — and from rental companies and dealers — with questions about charging, performance, operation and more when it comes to electric boom lifts and electric scissor lifts.
With that in mind, here are our responses to some of the most frequently asked questions about electric mobile elevating work platforms.
What’s driving the growing interest in lower-emission machines?
There are two big factors:
Government regulations — Worldwide, more and more governments at the federal and local levels are enacting clean air policies. Think of Canada’s Clean Fuel Standard, California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, London’s low-emissions zones, and France’s restricted traffic zones in major cities. Many regulations have started with on-road vehicles, but government officials are turning their attention to off-road emissions too.
Private sector policies — A growing number of companies are enacting sustainability or environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies of their own. And they’re expecting companies that do work for them to help them meet their goals.
What’s the difference between all-electric and hybrid aerial work platforms?
Just like a hybrid car, a hybrid MEWP can operate in an electric mode, but it has the option to run on liquid fuel when needed. An all-electric machine only has an electric power source, like a battery.
Can electric MEWPs match the performance of diesel?
There’s a perception that electrification comes at the expense of performance, but it’s not an either/or situation. All brands are different, but to give a Genie example, our all-electric, four-wheel-drive DC boom lifts have better efficiency and rough-terrain capabilities than booms with internal combustion engines. The terrainability advantages come thanks to an AC drive system that controls each AC drive motor independently and offers more power to each wheel, optimizing current, torque and speed. It works in conjunction with an active oscillating axle that keeps all four tires in contact with the ground in even the roughest terrain, improving traction and giving operators a smoother ride.
Also, don’t forget about the lower noise of electric machines. This makes it easier for crews to communicate, which can improve productivity and jobsite safety, and for a more overall pleasant jobsite.
What are the maintenance requirements for all-electric machines?
It’s much simpler and less expensive than diesel equipment. To use another Genie example, we estimate that our E-Drive scissor lifts lower maintenance costs by up to 35%.
Think about what not having an engine means:
There’s no engine to maintain and no engine oil or coolant. Fewer fluids means that you're at less risk for leakage too.
It’s not really a maintenance issue, but speaking of fluids, you of course won’t need to pay for diesel fuel for an all-electric machine, and your fuel expenses would be drastically reduced with a hybrid machine.
No aftertreatment systems on higher-horsepower machines. Say goodbye to diesel particulate filters and diesel exhaust fluid (DEF).
Because many scissors and boom lifts have been electric for years, most technicians are already comfortable working on these machines. The larger lifts now coming in electric drive may be bigger and use a slightly different variant of a technology, but it’s not so different as to require retraining.
How can I charge electric aerial equipment?
If the machine has an on-board charger, like Genie electric aerial equipment does, you can use common household outlets of 110/120 volts or 220-to-240-volt outlets, depending on what is common in your country. Machines will reach a full charge overnight.
There are other options too. Genie hybrid models are equipped with an on-board fast charger that can charge the battery pack in 2.5 hours.
Of course, aerial equipment is often used on construction projects where there is no existing infrastructure, so a wall outlet may not be handy. In these instances, you should check with the general contractor or the project owner on what steps they’re taking to bring power to the site.
If you're not confident there will be a consistent way to charge your machine, consider going with a hybrid lift. Genie FE hybrid booms can work full workdays for an entire week on a single tank of fuel. The FE hybrid boom has the added versatility of working in electric mode.
How long do they hold their charge?
This will vary based on the application and by brand. For application, the amount the machines are driven and the number of lift cycles affects the battery. For brand, I’ll keep my answer specific to Genie machines. Our electric boom lifts and electric scissor lifts can work a full standard workday on one charge when the machine is being used in a typical manner. For scissor lifts’ users who need to work longer than a typical workday, Lithium-Ion could provide an alternative because Lithium-Ion batteries won’t degrade from a partial charge. This means, they can be plugged in during breaks or lunch time without harming the battery life. Lithium-Ion batteries also charge 33% faster than FLA batteries.
With hybrids, of course, you also have the ability to switch to diesel. Genie takes this a step further and has developed hybrid machines that can actually charge the battery while operating in hybrid mode. They have an advanced energy management system that allows “dead battery” operations; when the batteries are completely drained, the power from the on-board diesel generator provides enough power to run any function (both drive and boom function).
What can operators do to maximize runtime?
Even though these machines do a good job keeping their charge, it’s still worthwhile to try to maximize runtime, just as you’d want to maximize fuel efficiency in diesel machines. Here are some tips to help conserve battery power:
Don’t lift, lower or drive unnecessarily.
Don’t lift more weight than is necessary.
Be sure to fully charge batteries before starting a work shift.
Store, charge and operate lifts in room-temperature environments (or warmer) if possible, unless a battery has been specifically designed to operate in all-weather conditions. Genie Lithium-Ion batteries have built-in heaters that maintain the proper temperature, which provides a productivity benefit in a cold environment.
Learn more about electric aerial lifts
These are some of the common questions we get about electric boom and scissor lifts, but we know many of our rental and dealer partners and end users have more. If you’d like to talk further, please reach out to us and we’d be happy to help.