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IDTechEx discusses Why electric CAM Machines need diverse Battery options

Construction, agriculture, and mining (CAM) machine OEMs have recently started their electrification journey. Over the next 10 years, IDTechEx predicts strong growth in this market, driven by the falling price of batteries and the total cost of ownership benefits that electric machines provide.

As such, a new battery market will be created, one that IDTechEx’s new “Battery Markets in Construction, Agriculture & Mining Machines 2024-2034” report finds will grow to a value of US$7.8 billion at a 10-year CAGR of 27.1% and with an annual demand of more than 50GWh in 2034.

The CAM industry is a little late to the party when it comes to electrification, but this means it benefits from a thriving and established electrification supply chain courtesy of the automotive industry. In the early electrification of the automotive industry, two factors drove the development of batteries: energy density for range and battery cost. Thus, the electric car industry settled on nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and lithium ferrous phosphate (LFP) batteries, which provide a nice balanced solution to these drivers. However, IDTechEx’s new market research report finds that CAM machines have a wide variety of needs, creating opportunities for battery technologies beyond the automotive-defined status quo.

There are many battery technologies coming to market nowadays, from evolutions of lithium-ion technologies to revolutionary sodium-ion options. Each technology brings its pros and cons; for example, lithium titanate (LTO) batteries offer ten times the cycle life of other batteries but have half the energy density. Or batteries that use silicon rather than graphite in the anode offer exceptional energy density and great power capability but suffer on cycle life. Like most things in life, there are trade-offs; there is not one perfect battery solution that offers the best energy density, power draw, longevity, cost, and safety all in one package. Luckily, in CAM, there are often machine types with a set of needs that match the trade-offs of today’s battery options.

Haul trucks are a great example of a CAM machine with very specialized needs. These mammoth 150-tonne-plus machines are used for moving extracted raw material in mining sites worldwide. They have tremendous uptime, typically working 20+ hours per day and working 360 days per year. Their weight and uptime mean they need large batteries to do the job. IDTechEx has seen batteries as large as 2MWh used in these machines. In perspective, 2MWh is the equivalent of 20 Tesla Model S batteries or 50 Nissan Leaf (40kWh) batteries. A battery this large will weigh around 10 tonnes and would likely cost in the region of US$500 thousand to US$1 million. Thankfully, with the machine already weighing so much and carrying payloads in the hundreds of tonnes, the battery size and weight are inconsequential – in fact, the engines that the electric powertrain replaces already weigh in the region of 10- to 25 tonnes.

For an electric haul truck, IDTechEx sees three main priorities that should be satisfied from the chosen battery type:

It must be capable of fast charging to deliver the uptime that these machines need.
It must have good longevity. IDTechEx estimates that a haul truck will get through 12,000 charge cycles over its service life.
It must make financial sense. Some battery technologies would not last the full 12,000 cycles, forcing costly replacements. Some technologies could make the cycle life, but typically cost a little more.

Given these priorities, IDTechEx’s report finds that LTO is a great fit for haul trucks. LTO is a very reliable technology, and off-the-shelf packs from turnkey battery pack assemblers, such as Forsee Power, ABB, and Voltabox, are rated for 20,000 to 100,000 cycles. Additionally, it is very good at fast charging, with many examples capable of charging in 6 minutes or less. Of course, LTO has trade-offs – its energy density is around half that of LFP options, and it is more expensive per kWh. However, neither of these factors particularly matter for haul trucks. They are large enough to support the added weight, while the longevity of LTO batteries eliminates the need for replacements, which more than offsets its additional cost.

Large batteries and fast charging capabilities raise another issue, though – charging. If a 2MWh battery were to be charged in 6 minutes, it would need a 20MW grid connection. This power demand is so high that it would need around six off-shore wind turbines dedicated to its charging. Pathways to solutions for these charging requirements are being worked on, a topic that is discussed in IDTechEx’s report “Off-Grid Charging For Electric Vehicles 2024-2034: Technologies, Benchmarking, Players and Forecasts”.

The CAM industry is full of machines like this. Machines that have a specific set of needs for their specialized use cases. Mini-excavators have small chassis requiring similar solutions to the automotive industry. Large loaders require large and cheap batteries, perhaps creating a market for sodium-ion solutions. In farming, chassis space is more limited, but seasonal usage means fewer cycles are needed, which could open the door for silicon anode technologies.

IDTechEx’s new market research report, “Battery Markets in Construction, Agriculture & Mining Machines 2024-2034”, considers 15 separate machine types across construction, agriculture, and mining. Analysis of more than 200 examples of electric models from leading OEMs such as Caterpillar, John Deere, Komatsu, XCMG, and more reveals the individual battery needs of each machine type. Additionally, IDTechEx’s report analyses ten different battery chemistries, matching up the merits of each against the needs of different machine types.

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