That is the view of Maarten Vermeiren, product marketing manager sustainability and digitalisation for the portable air division at Atlas Copco, which produces air compressors for construction and quarrying.
The Northern hemisphere is experiencing an extreme heat wave this summer – even normally rainy and cold Belgium where Atlas Copco Portable Air is based has seen temperatures soar to an unheard-of 40oC.
Vermeiren says that, while traditional diesel and internal combustion engines have become more efficient and cut emissions drastically, it’s clear that the future is electric.
"Today almost all construction equipment uses diesel engines," says Vermeiren. "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. And the benefits are huge – and not just for the environment."
He adds that the E-Air electric compressors produce no CO2, are very 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," says Vermeiren. "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."
Vermeiren says that, while there may not be an electric alternative for every application yet, the technology will soon fill in any gaps. He adds that the bigger challenge is changing mindsets and breaking away from convention to adopt the new technologies.