Volvo Construction Equipment presented the HX2 autonomous, battery-electric, load carrier at CONEXPO/CON-AGG 2017. The second-generation concept machine is part of an electric site research project that aims to transform the quarry and aggregates industry, by reducing carbon emissions by up to 95% and total cost of ownership by up to 25%.

Volvo CE showcased the first-generation of the prototype HX machine, known as HX1, at the company’s Xploration Forum in September last year. Since then, Volvo CE’s engineers have been developing the machine. And while it may still look similar on the outside, it’s completely different on the inside.

“The HX2 is fundamentally different to the HX1,” says Chief Project Manager Uwe Müller. “The HX1 was proof of concept. Once we knew it was feasible we updated the design requirements for the HX2 to incorporate shared technologies and components from the Volvo Group, such as electric motors, batteries and power electronics. Integrating a completely new drivetrain was crucial to take full advantage of the groundbreaking ‘electromobility’ developments that are happening inside the Volvo Group. Another new feature is the addition of a vision system, which allows the machine to detect humans and obstacles in its vicinity.”

As well as a small fleet of HX2s, other prototype machines that make-up the electric site system includes a prototype electric hybrid wheel loader, and a grid-connected excavator. New technology encompasses machine and fleet control systems and logistic solutions for electric machines in quarries.

Volvo CE teamed up with its customer Skanska Sweden, the Swedish Energy Agency and two Swedish universities – Linköping University and Mälardalen University – in October 2015 to collaborate on the SEK 203 million project. Volvo CE is coordinating the project and is in charge of developing the machines and systems. Skanska Sweden is providing logistical solutions, application relevance and job site knowledge. The Swedish Energy Agency – a government agency for national energy policy issues – is helping to fund the project and the universities are carrying out research. Two PhD students are looking at battery aging and energy management for electric vehicles, as well as functional safety.

Skanska Sweden will incorporate the demonstration machines into its operations and test the electric site concept at a quarry in western Sweden for 10 weeks at the end of 2018. After this, Volvo CE will examine the project results to see if the concept is viable for the industry. Currently this work is just a research project, with no plans for industrialisation at this stage.

“Volvo CE is committed to pushing boundaries and exploring the technology of the future,” says Director of emerging technologies Jenny Elfsberg. “The HX2 and the electric site project demonstrate how Volvo CE wants to work with its customers early in the development phase to improve total site performance and sustainability, while also saving customers money. By integrating customers in the development process, we can design the best solution for a task, application and environment together. The concepts being developed in the electric site research project are part of Volvo CE’s long-term future vision, and they have the potential to transform the quarry and aggregates industry. By using electricity instead of diesel to power construction equipment in a quarry, we have the potential to deliver significant reductions in fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, environmental impact and cost-per-tonne. The electrification of construction equipment will produce cleaner, quieter and more efficient machines – this represents the future of our industry.”