Solutions for an electric-powered future

All over the world construction is happening in cities, next door to homes, schools and offices. Atlas Copco is developing solutions that are silent, smaller and energy efficient, and that help minimize global CO2 emissions.

Imagine an urban construction site free from the noise, harmful fumes, particles and carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. And imagine energy-efficient equipment that ensures a maximum ratio of power is put to good use, instead of being wasted as excess heat.

Atlas Copco Power Technique is at the innovative forefront in realizing this vision. The world is facing an immense challenge in its efforts to phase out fossil fuels and slow down global warming. One important piece of the puzzle is finding energy-efficient solutions that cut back on CO2 emissions and provide alternatives to fossil fuels as an energy source.

“Diesel regulations are being tightened and the construction industry, as well as other industries using our solutions, are looking at alternative technologies,” explains Kenneth De Vocht, program and team leader engineering at Atlas Copco Power Technique. “There is a pull from the market. At the same time, mandatory cleaning components are making diesel-powered equipment more expensive to manufacture. This creates an extra push on us to innovate and develop alternatives.”

In-house innovation

8 Series small portable air compressor

As a technology leader, Atlas Copco has the capacity to develop these new solutions in-house. A prime example is the E-Air compressor, in which proven technologies from other products have been combined and made more robust to develop an electric-powered compressor that is capable of meeting the demands of construction sites.

“Using our extensive know-how from building diesel compressors for outdoor use, we have toughened up the in-house-developed motor to withstand heat, dust, humidity, vibrations and other heavy-duty conditions. The windings are covered with special material that protects against condensation, and the surrounding components come from our tried and tested 8-series diesel-powered compressors,” says De Vocht.

Since this helps retain the equipment’s resale value, it is an important plus for the rental companies that are a large part of Atlas Copco’s customer base. A further advantage compared to competing products is the versatility of the socket connections, letting customers use their existing installation to hook up the E-Air.

“The E-Air compressors are designed as a plug-and-play solution. They can be used in the same applications as a standard diesel compressor. Since we are using variable-speed drive (VSD) technology and a motor with high efficiency and low impact current to the power grid, the E-Air machines are suitable for a wide range of applications. The working pressure can also be adjusted via PACE (a patented technology from Atlas Copco) for better versatility as well,” says Haiying Cong, Product Marketing Manager at Atlas Copco Power Technique.

Silent and energy efficient

There are obvious environmental benefits of electrification when it comes to exhaust emissions and urban air quality. Of course, the electric power has to be generated somehow and in a lot of cases fossil fuels are being used for this. But even then, there are benefits in terms of CO2 emissions.

“Power plants have much higher efficiency. Also, by centralizing the power supply, you have a better chance of optimizing it and also eventually switching over to one of the many carbon-neutral options such as nuclear, hydro, wind or solar energy,” says Cong.

Another benefit in urban applications is that these compressors run more silently. The compressor’s footprint is also much smaller, making it easier to move around. Furthermore, there is virtually no maintenance needed.

“For the customers there is a very beneficial total cost of ownership. Constant refueling, along with maintenance, make the operational costs of the diesel options double by comparison, making them more expensive in the long run,” explains De Vocht.

Fast and flexible energy supply

Electrical power is often required at immediate notice, and Atlas Copco has this need covered as well. The portable and electric QAS 5 generators are specially designed for metropolitan construction and based on ‘plug and play’ connectivity to provide a safe, fast and flexible energy supply. Equipped with up to eight sockets, the generators can be powered up within five seconds. The generators are nearly silent, due to a VSD motor-driven fan that adjusts the cooling flow to the specific requirements of the engine. This technology also provides on average a five per cent reduction in fuel consumption compared to equivalent models.

Electric pumps for de-watering

Even in areas where electric-powered equipment has been around since the 1920s, Atlas Copco is investing in innovation. De-watering is an important part in metropolitan construction, and Atlas Copco has several electrical solutions for it.

“We have a complete range of high-quality and lightweight electric submersible pumps designed specifically for drainage, sludge and slurry pumping applications,” says Hrishi Kulkami, Product Marketing Manager at Atlas Copco Power Technique.

“We have built in a number of features that prevent product failure due to human error, sudden loss of voltage and overheating. Electric power may be an old, proven technology in submersible pumps, but today customers need much more in terms of efficiency and support, and we are driving innovation to meet this demand,” he adds.

Battery-powered light towers

Another product area where a shift toward electric power is occurring is light towers. This development is especially strong in urban settings, where emission and noise restrictions are becoming major factors. Other benefits with hooking up light towers to the grid or running them on battery, which is the next big innovation area, is that they can be much smaller and lighter and, thus, easier to transport. This also lowers carbon emissions. Since there is no engine inside, the electric light towers also become extremely reliable.

“Looking at green innovation, I want to highlight our fully battery-powered light tower which can work for a full working week without access to main supply or a generator,” says Félix Gòmez, Product Marketing Manager at Atlas Copco Power Technique. “Comparing it to traditional light towers, it provides light free of noise and lowers carbon emissions, as batteries can be recharged with green energy. Also, the maintenance costs are close to zero as there are no consumables or rotary parts. The trend towards electric and battery equipment is here to stay, and Atlas Copco is definitely ready for it.”