Big machines, small emissions

Big machines, small emissions

How construction machinery can contribute to climate protection

Diesel vehicles and construction machinery especially do not have a good reputation from a climate perspective and are regarded as particular "polluters".  New drive solutions offer new opportunities. However, conditions may differ considerably depending on the field of application. For example,  while a wheel loader on a construction site in the city can run well on electricity, the necessary charging infrastructure is often missing in the countryside and energy demand may not fully be met by an E-drive alone.

In order to determine the product carbon footprint of construction machinery, Frontier was commissioned by manufacturer Liebherr to investigate the potential for CO2 emission savings over the machine's lifetime, from production and operation to recycling. This involved a comparison of the same type of construction machine (mobile crane, truck mixer and wheel loader), each equipped with different drive solutions.

There is no "one" solution

Our  study shows that an approach that is open to different technologies offers the largest savings potential:

  • For small, manoeuvrable wheel loaders and concrete mixers, e-drives with 100% charging current from renewable sources and e-fuels have the greatest CO2 emission savings potential; while
  • mobile cranes are best powered by certified hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) produced from food waste with no palm oil.

Hydrogen as a long-term solution

In the long term, hydrogen from CO2-neutral energy sources also offers a good solution. However, while the necessary hydrogen infrastructure and appropriate drive technologies are not available, HVO provides a useful bridge technology. This is the case particularly  for existing fleets with (diesel) combustion engines, and in countries outside Europe where these vehicles will probably be used for a long time to come. Here, HVO blends could contribute significantly to reducing the ecological footprint.

Sustainable fuels for the future

If the framework conditions for hydrogen and e-fuel production from renewables are appropriate and e-drives are not regarded as the only solution to climate protection in the mobility sector but rather as one in many options, the construction machinery sector can be fuelled in a sustainable way.

Liebherr has now added various construction machines with zero-emission drive technology to its product range. In addition, it is refuelling some of its newly produced machines with pure HVO fuel on delivery and is gradually converting its factory traffic to climate-neutral fuels. The Liebherr press release can be accessed here. Liebherr also provides a summary of the study.

For more information, please contact or call +44 (0) 20 7031 7000.