Text: Mutsumi Saito, Toshiaki Saito. Photos (portraits): Norio Sekine. Illustrations: Toshinori Yonemura
As society moves toward net-zero carbon initiatives, the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group is working hard to electrify its construction machinery for zero-emission construction sites. This is an immensely challenging mission and one that we cannot achieve without further technical innovation and changes in our social systems. This is the theme of this feature story. Through interviews with the leaders of our electrification project, we introduce the work we're doing and our vision for the future.
Our Road to Zero Emissions
How the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group will decarbonize its equipment
The Hitachi Construction Machinery Group is working to make its entire value chain carbon-neutral by 2050.
The most important element of this work is the electrification of our construction machinery. We, as a company produced electric construction machinery as early as the 1960s, and are working toward future zero-emissions world.
Here's how we're going to get there.
In October 2022, 3,200 construction machinery companies from 60 countries around the world exhibited their work at bauma 2022, an international construction machinery trade fair in Munich, Germany. Two major industry trends, both of which pose immense challenges, are digitalization and sustainability. Both of these trends were apparent at bauma 2022. The road to zero emissions was one of the key themes this time, with many manufacturers bringing electric construction machinery to the venue. The Hitachi Construction Machinery Group's booth attracted particular attention with battery-operated excavators in four sizes from 2 tons to 13 tons.
"Products and technology development contributing to Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation" are one of the key issues designated in the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group's Materiality. We are working to make our entire value chain carbon-neutral by 2050. The majority of CO2 emissions created in the life cycle of construction machinery take place during operation. This means that it will be impossible to become carbon neutral without developing low-CO2 products. Our booth at bauma 2022 showcased one of the fruits of that effort.
But the next step is to get people to use them, and we will face more than a few issues there. The first is cost. Construction machinery is sold in much fewer numbers than cars, so electric construction machinery is several times more expensive than machines with engines. In addition, since construction machinery operates at construction sites, problems such as operating time and charging facilities are crucial. Issues like this are another reason why one construction machinery company cannot do this work alone. The whole industry must work together to solve the various issues that such a change brings.
Carbon neutrality cannot be achieved simply by developing electric construction machinery and developing charging facilities. Soft measures will also be needed, such as ICT and IoT systems that will enable autonomous operation to improve efficiency. It is with this in mind that the Hitachi Construction Machinery Group will take its next resolute steps on the road to zero emissions.