Helena Berg talks about energy storage systems for construction machineries in conjunction with her lead role in a Construction Climate Challenge research initiative.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for batteries in heavy machines?
A: Construction machines are unique to other hybrid and electric vehicles because they require more energy in less time. The power demands are challenging if you compare to a bus or a passenger car. You can’t use the same cells because you need something that can deliver power in a short time.
Q: Is the development of a sustainable and powerful enough battery for construction vehicles currently too far behind to make a considerable change in the foreseeable future?
A: I think it’s about taking what’s best now and doing something with that. Learn how to make the vehicle and then change the battery. There’s research going on now for example at Chalmers, where they are combining a super capacitor and a battery in one cell. From that perspective I would like to see more research in that field.
Q: Can batteries be given a second life, and applied in, for example, hybrid systems to lower the cost of storage?
A: In general, yes, depending on where you are. It’s naïve to say exactly how long batteries can last. It’s almost impossible to know right now. It’s tricky how to arrange the batteries, the warranties, if you lease out the batteries, and how to really guarantee what is left in the battery.
Q: What would you say the most important findings were in your study?
A: That you can’t just look for performance; you must have the sustainability calculations in parallel when you select your technology. Otherwise you can put so much money into the wrong direction. It’s so easy to forget the importance of sustainability in research and you can find yourself in a dead end.
Q: Are you planning on continuing the research?
A: Yes we are. At Chalmers University of Technology, we’re looking into the lithium and sulphur Li-S battery and also for the technology that combines super capacitors with batteries. There will be a continuation of research into new materials, which are better, cheaper and more sustainable.
Q: What do you think is really important for the construction industry right now?
A: Just do something! Make electric machines. Go ahead with the electric sites and continue to fund climate development projects.