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The Past, Present and Future of Electric Equipment

Our story in keywords

The electrification of construction machinery is not a goal in itself but a measure to achieve zero emissions and build a carbon-neutral society. This has been the basis for over 60 years of electrification initiatives by Hitachi Construction Machinery. Here's a recap of what we've done so far, the challenges we've faced in popularizing electric construction machinery, and our vision for the future.

Hitachi Construction Machinery has been making electric construction machinery for a very long time. Our first electric mechanical excavator was released in the 1960s and our first electric hydraulic excavator followed in the 1970s. As Japan entered its high economic growth period (from around 1955), an increasing number of our customers in indoor sectors, such as industrial waste treatment, told us that they wanted to prevent exhaust for the sake of their workers' health. We took that feedback seriously, and in the 1971 fiscal year, we unveiled our new electric hydraulic excavator, wired from a commercial power supply. The cable was no issue, as the machinery does not need to move far during indoor work.

From there, we worked to improve on the design, developing a string of further wired electric machinery. In 2006, we developed a compact battery-operated hydraulic excavator with a built-in lithium-ion battery. We started with a 5-ton class excavator before releasing a 7-ton class version in 2007 and then a 3.5-ton class mini-excavator in 2011. But our development of battery-operated excavators was soon brought to a halt, for three reasons: the batteries at that time could not power the machinery for long enough, the expensive batteries drove up the cost of the machinery, and society had yet to become concerned enough about environmental issues such as CO2 emissions.

On the other hand, fuel prices were soaring in the late 2000s, and the need to reduce fuel costs was greater than ever. We reflected on our years of experience in electrification and the technology we had developed and began working on hybrid models with both a battery and an engine. The development of our first model began in 2008. In 2011, we released a 20-ton class hybrid hydraulic excavator. 2019 saw demand for electric construction machinery rise again as Europe became more environmentally conscious.

Kiwamu Takahashi

Development Center, Development Div, Hitachi Construction Machinery Tierra
Listening to customers' feedback and developing products to resolve their issues is what Hitachi Construction Machinery is all about. It was this that inspired us to develop our first wired electric construction machinery and all the machinery that has followed.