Construction Equipment North America

Charging ahead for a greener tomorrow: Maryland parks district champions Volvo electric equipment

New models efficiently purchased through Sourcewell buying contract and local dealer

Maryland parks district champions Volvo electric equipment

Wrapping around the eastern border of Washington, D.C., Prince George’s County, Maryland, is a sprawling mix of urban, suburban and rural locales. Minutes from the hustle of the U.S. capital, it is the model of work-life balance for its nearly one million residents. The county contains 26,000 acres of parkland with more than 165 miles of trails, 127 neighborhood parks, 39 community centers, 10 aquatic facilities, three ice rinks, four golf courses and 214 tennis courts.

This diverse portfolio of properties is maintained by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George’s County, and its force of over 2,000 employees. M-NCPPC is a six-time national gold medalist in parks and recreation management, awarded through the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration (AAPRA) in partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA).

M-NCPPC continues to stay ahead of the curve by electrifying heavy equipment in its fleet, starting with two Volvo Construction Equipment compact models: the ECR25 electric excavator and L25 electric wheel loader. 

“We are committed to the One Planet Living international framework, which includes a five-year roadmap of sustainability initiatives that will reduce our carbon footprint and our greenhouse gas emissions,” said Andrew Phillips, division chief of facility services for the parks and recreation department. 

The army of heavy equipment used by M-NCPPC to maintain its properties was the primary place to make both immediate and long-term impacts on sustainability targets and reduce costs to taxpayers.

Volvo was a trusted name within M-NCPPC, as the organization owns three mid-size excavators: an ECR145E, EC220E and EC350E. Phillips used the build and spec tool on the Volvo web site to review and compare the full range of electric compact excavators and wheel loaders. Next, he contacted his local dealer, McClung-Logan Equipment Company.

“I was very interested in what the Volvo machines offered. I figured the compact models would afford us an entry-level opportunity to bring electric equipment to our division, with the expectation to go larger as the machines become commercially available,” Phillips says.

Doing Their Due Diligence

Phillips conducted a full lifecycle comparison of their current diesel units versus the electric versions that would replace them. This included capturing data around fuel, labor and all parts components that are part of the maintenance and upkeep of a machine over its lifetime.

“We used this information to establish a baseline, so we can report our sustainability efforts and show improvements in the reduction of our carbon footprint,” Phillips said.

When municipal and government agencies cross certain spending thresholds, they must competitively bid purchases — which can be a lengthy and costly process. However, all of Volvo’s compact electric models are now on the Sourcewell cooperative purchasing contract in the United States and the Canoe Procurement Group’s contract in Canada. These contracts are competitively solicited and satisfy most public bid requirements, which means public buyers can purchase Volvo equipment directly on contract. Working through their local dealers, manufacturers offer some of their best government pricing on contract while giving the customer flexibility for equipment feature options.

Maryland parks district champions Volvo electric equipment

Nick Lepore, territory manager with Volvo dealer McClung-Logan Equipment, uses Sourcewell for many of his governmental and municipal customers. He says, “Buying through Sourcewell expedites the entire process from start to finish. We provide a set price from the manufacturer, which already meets the bid criteria. With a traditional bid process, it could take six to eight months before you get to an agreed-upon price, then order the equipment. With Sourcewell, you can reduce a one-year process to a few months.”

On-site operator training was provided by McClung-Logan and Volvo CE when the equipment was delivered. Both machines are backed by five-year bumper-to bumper Customer Support Agreements to keep everything running smoothly.

Unfiltered Reactions

Maryland parks district champions Volvo electric equipment

Michael Bowen, recreation and park maintenance coordinator for M-NCPPC, admits the machines’ arrival was met with initial pushback from his crews. “It's different. It's new. It doesn't make noise. But once they started operating them, they realized that you get the same work done,” he says. “You're not burning fuel, there's no noise pollution and you're not creating emissions. For example, with the compact excavator, we can take it inside community centers for repair work during regular hours without impacting any activities.”

Bowen had his own dose of skepticism. “The number one question for me was charge time versus operation time. But when the machine's not running, it's not using energy. You need to factor in the actual operating time for the entire day. And we have not had any issues with running out of charge because when it's idle, it's off. It's not using the charge until you use it. We plug it in before we leave each evening and it fully charges overnight, ready to work the next morning.”

Volvo CE electric machines can be charged using the same type of 120- and 220-volt outlets that are common to most homes and businesses, as well as with a growing number of portable charging products. M-NCPPC installed a 2.5 MWh solar field that completely offsets the energy use of its largest maintenance facility and several community centers. This means the Volvo machines are powered 100% off-grid, further reducing their carbon emissions.

John Illig is one of the main operators of the ECR25 and L25. He says, “I think they are fantastic. As far as operating, you really can't tell the difference except for the fact that there's no noise. The hydraulics are extremely responsive, and the breakout force is good. Just the way it drives, it’s real smooth. I'm thoroughly impressed with it. I haven't run into a situation where I've had to stop what I'm doing for the day to plug it in.”

Illig’s review carries weight, as he owns a Volvo L20 B-series diesel compact wheel loader that is used on his family farm. He notes that the Volvo build quality, controls and ergonomics are consistent across generations. “So when I got into this machine, it was a natural fit for me.”

Leading the Way to a Greener Future

A century ago, the first diesel engines in the U.S. were installed in farm tractors and fast became the undisputed power source for heavy-duty trucks and construction equipment as well. Today, an electric revolution is underway, boosted by incentives and regulations. As local municipalities, states and related agencies navigate how to implement and measure these changes, Volvo, its dealer network and partners like Sourcewell have the groundwork in place to provide machines, training and financing.

“Other agencies look at what we're doing and how we run our programs,” Bowen says. “Buying this equipment puts us at the forefront of taking that next step, because larger electric machines are coming. And I'm sure we will be one of the first to enter that market.”

Phillips agrees. “If you're on the fence about purchasing electric construction equipment, I think the time is now and the opportunities are there. It's not going away. This is where the future is. This is where we're headed. And Sourcewell provides a very easy way to make it happen.”

Maryland special parks district champions Volvo electric equipment

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission is one of the first U.S. agencies to electrify its construction fleet, starting with a combo of Volvo compact models, the ECR25 electric excavator and L25 electric wheel loader. Both models were efficiently purchased through the Sourcewell buying contract.