Explore the alternative sustainable power sources for heavy equipment, their challenges, and the success criteria that these power sources need to meet for heavy equipment’s unique power requirements.
In a world of constant technological advances, heavy equipment continues to perform a vital role in keeping key industries moving, from agriculture to construction and beyond. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to transform some aspects of heavy equipment operations, a subject we explore in another Henkel article, but the basic need for equipment that can haul, lift, harvest or process heavy loads remains the same.
Heavy equipment, whether human-operated or autonomous, needs sustainable power sources to deliver its full potential.
While hybrid, battery, hydrogen fuel-cell and biofuel all have a role in the sustainable future of automotive power, heavy equipment operations have unique requirements that call for specific solutions.
Delivering alternative power solutions that are truly sustainable goes across the value chain, from raw material extraction, through component production and manufacture, to operation and disposal.
Here, we consider the challenges and options for heavy equipment alternative power, how they are being tackled across the value chain, and how Henkel’s expertise and best-of-breed materials solutions are helping deliver a sustainable future.
The basic success criteria for any alternative power source is that it must:
- Be cost-effective to produce and run
- Deliver the required energy density, for as long as is needed, for each use case
- Have infrastructure in the right places for refueling or recharging
- Be practicable in terms of weight, size, safety, economy and user experience
- Maximize sustainability throughout its life, from production to decommissioning
Operating heavy equipment in an industrial or agricultural environment creates additional power requirements as:
- It draws more power than smaller vehicles.
- It has peaky power demands, for example, for lifting or hauling.
- It needs consistent power levels throughout their operating cycle.
- Time between recharging/refueling and maintenance stops needs to be maximized.
- It often operates in remote environments such as large farms, where infrastructure is limited, so fueling or maintenance visits impact operational performance.
Choosing the right power source needs to take these factors into account.
The US Department of Energy Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) provides a summary of alternative power sources in development, from battery to biofuel.
They fall into four broad categories:
- Solutions using a direct alternative to gasoline or diesel to power a conventional engine.
- Solutions using an alternative fuel, normally hydrogen, in a fuel cell that powers a battery.
- Solutions using batteries to store and deliver power produced outside the vehicle.
- Hybrid solutions combining battery and conventional fuel power.
There are benefits and challenges for each alternative, and ongoing innovation in each category makes it hard to identify a single long-term winner.
For now, a 2021 Boston Consulting Group article gives this view on the current position –
….if the goal is lowest cost, companies probably won’t be able to use a single fuel for all vehicles and all applications. For example, battery electric power will be an option for light-utility trucks or pickups, but companies will need other solutions such as hydrogen fuel cells for heavier vehicles.
Delivering truly sustainable power demands focus on the environmental impacts of every aspect of manufacturing, operation, maintenance and decommissioning.
Innovations in materials technology are transforming manufacturing, delivering sustainability benefits throughout the value chain, by
- Enabling designs that reduce power train weight, while increasing safety and efficiency with improved thermal management.
- Offering bonding, sealing, and other chemical technologies that reduce the time, resources and power required to produce resilient, easy to maintain power solutions.
- Facilitating maximum recyclability and reuse with new materials and bonding techniques.
Henkel’s materials technology has delivered success with brands and technologies for over 140 years. Our expertise and unparalleled solutions portfolio, our proven capability in eMobility and our commitment to innovation and collaboration, make us an ideal partner in creating sustainable solutions for heavy equipment power.
Henkel offers market-leading solutions and extensive technical know-how in a wide range of materials technologies for the production of e-drive systems, chargers, converters and inverters –
- Gap pads and fillers
- Potting materials
- Thermal interfaces
- Magnet bonding
- Printed circuit boards
Henkel is the developer and manufacturer of the market-leading BERGQUIST® brand thermal management solutions. Effective thermal management and heat dissipation are critical in meeting sustainable power demands for higher performance, greater function, smaller footprints and increased power densities.
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