Solving the climate challenge will require revolutionizing the earthmoving industry as we know it today. And, if you're looking to revolutionize an industry, there's no better place to turn than John Deere. At least that's how National Grid saw it.
Committed to its own sustainability goals on becoming carbon neutral, National Grid – a northeast U.S. electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company – reached out to Deere with a clear objective: Help us find a backhoe solution that supports our sustainability objectives.
Enter the E-Power Backhoe, an all-battery prototype built off the current 310L 100-horsepower diesel equivalent.
Previous product success helped Deere's backhoe team move quickly as it was able to leverage successful experiences from the Construction & Forestry Division's hybrid electric loader line to select and integrate an electric drive system for its first battery electric backhoe prototype.
The team adopted a phased approach to focus development of key systems and accelerate collaborative testing with National Grid. The initial phase of the E-Power Backhoe was engineered by Deere, utilizing customer input and expertise from enterprise technical experts to help accelerate the team's knowledge in battery systems, battery charging strategies, and electrified auxiliary components. The next phase of the project will integrate feedback from National Grid's testing as well as build on the Phase 1 experience to increase run-time and maximize the backhoe operator experience.
Brian Hennings, product manager for backhoes, said the E-Power – with its cleaner power source – is expected to reduce CO₂e emissions by up to 83 metric tons over the life of the product while eliminating more than 7,300 gallons of diesel fuel. Being all-electric also means it runs quieter, currently reducing diesel decibel levels from the noise made by a kitchen blender to the sound of a clothes dryer.
"It makes for a safer work environment," Jon Gilbeck, manager for Production Systems-Site Development and Underground, said. "Communication is key between the operator and other support crew members. It also is less disruptive in neighborhoods or near businesses."
"The target is performance and controllability in an all-electric backhoe similar to the diesel offering," Hennings said.
Currently in Phase 1 proof of concept, the E-Power Backhoe is being put to work in real-life job site scenarios. Hennings said that if further testing goes well, the battery electric solution could be made commercially available in a matter of years.
But, Gilbeck said, the benefits of having the E-Power Backhoe in the field has "generated great conversations with customers across all production systems" helping Deere take a broader view and prioritize future investments. In fact, Deere expects to leverage insights from the E-Power Backhoe across multiple product lines to have not only a backhoe, but up to five or six different machine forms that are fully electrified, putting Deere on a path to a greener earthmoving fleet.