The acquisition of two innovative Volvo EC480E excavators able to operate directly from mains electric would be a once-in-a-lifetime event for many companies – but for Kim Hock Corporation it is just another step in its ambitious, sustainable masterplan.
Handling more than 200,000 tons of scrap metal each year, Kim Hock is one of the largest steel recycling operations in Singapore, with five plants around the island. Headquartered at its Shipyard Crescent facility since 2014, it operates under continuous computer control as it scraps old vehicles and machinery to recover clean steel, aluminum and copper, shredding up to 100 tons of metal per hour.
Those same facilities, however, were also designed to meet the challenges of recycling wood and horticultural waste, producing wood chips for use in new products and, as a key stage in its long-term environmental strategy, generating electricity from the biomass wood waste to power the plant and its machinery.
So, having enjoyed a strong relationship with Volvo ever since acquiring one of its excavators in 2009 and being impressed by the after-sales service, the obvious next move for general manager Lim Teck Siang (TS) was to sound out Volvo about the possibility of acquiring two electrically powered material handlers.
“We welcomed the recent launch of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 as we have long been interested in new solutions to power our needs in a greener way,” he says. “Volvo has a long history of innovation and technology, so we knew it could help us meet our requirements for improved efficiency, mobility and reducing our carbon footprint even further.”
But with no off-the-shelf electromobility solutions currently available for customers, the answer came in the form of a specially developed custom design from Volvo CE’s Special Application Solutions (SAS) team and its qualified partner.
“Volvo invited me to its electric excavator job site in South Korea where I got to see them at work firsthand, which further strengthened my decision to invest in these machines,” adds TS.
Almost zero downtime
Although he had originally enquired about a fully electric excavator, TS eventually decided to employ two dual-powered EC480EL machines, each combining a mains-supplied electric motor with a Stage V-certified Volvo diesel engine. The beauty of having a dual source powered solution is that it practically eliminates downtime. This machine operates mostly via the electric motor, thus producing a very low carbon footprint to the environment.
To enable running on direct AC current, each excavator is connected to a ground pole housing the electric cable via a high, pliant and horizontal beam. This beam is then flexibly connected to the electric motor at the rear of the excavator’s upper structure, allowing it to swing in and maneuver virtually the same way as any other. The whole electrical installation was carried out swiftly, with little disruption to Kim Hock’s daily operations.
With one of these innovative EC480EL excavators fitted with an orange-peel grapple for material handling, and the other using hydraulic shear for cutting oversized steel scrap, Kim Hock has come a long way since it was set up in 1970. Back then, TS’s father, Lim Kim Hock operated out of his mother’s back yard in a small kampong (village), and even after moving to dedicated facilities, relied heavily on manual labor to process scrap.
Some other changes have been less positive, however. “When I started working 30 years ago, it wasn’t as hot as it is now. Now we are seeing heavier rainstorms that will even flood the very efficient drainage systems we have here in Singapore,” says TS. “But we are a forward-looking company that wants to play its part in mitigating the adverse effects of climate change. Adding two EC480EL electric excavators further strengthens our commitment to be a low carbon footprint company.”
“Kim Hock shares many of the same corporate values that we have here at Volvo,” concludes Joseph Low, senior manager product marketing at Volvo CE, who aided Kim Hock’s transition to sustainably powered excavators. “Volvo intends to fully divest from fossil fuels by 2040, so until such machinery becomes widely available, we are always happy to produce bespoke solutions for our customers.”