Turner uses electric skid steer at Berkeley’s $550M Gateway project

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Dive Brief:

  • Turner Construction, the country’s largest general contractor by revenue, deployed what it claims is the world’s first all-electric skid steer on the $550 million Gateway project at the University of California, Berkeley. 
  • The Bobcat T7X electric track skid steer uses a 62-kilowatt lithium-ion battery that lasts for four hours of continuous use, or a full day of intermittent work, and can be deployed for both exterior and inside jobs, since it doesn’t produce emissions. 
  • “The electric construction equipment market depends not just on the development of the technology itself, but on a contractor’s willingness to pilot, rent and streamline that equipment too,” said Emi LaFountain, Turner’s regional sustainability manager. “It’s thrilling to be at the crux of both positions and be a part of that push for a lower-carbon jobsite.”

Dive Insight:

The deployment is part of Turner’s push to lower its carbon footprint announced this year, which it plans to reach, in part, with a full fleet of electric vehicles by 2028. It has also already used a Volvo EC230 electric excavator on another project. 

The firm noted the T7X was a particularly good fit for The Gateway project, which is being built for the College of Computing, Data Science and Society, Berkeley’s first new college in 50 years. 

Because EVs are quieter than diesel equipment, it won’t cause as much of a disruption to ongoing classes nearby. With the site adjacent to several active classrooms and labs, the all-electric track loader — used to regrade the site’s access roads — ensures minimal disruption to Berkeley’s students and faculty, according to the release. 

Turner launched the EV skid steer in partnership with Sunbelt Rentals, whose lead on the project said one draw of EV equipment for construction sites is the ability to use it during nighttime shifts. As summers grow warmer, working on construction projects at night when outside temperatures are cooler is gaining more interest in the industry. 

“Our customers will be able to operate outside of normal working hours and in applications where its’ diesel counterpart would not be suitable,” said Jenny Pratt, Sunbelt’s product line manager. “This allows for increased productivity and quicker job completion.”

However, EV construction equipment also comes with challenges, including how to effectively charge it at jobsites before electric utilities have been laid in the ground. 

There’s also the cost. According to Designfax magazine, which caters to OEM design engineers, the Bobcat TZX cost around $200,000 when it debuted last year, or three times a standard diesel model. 

At Turner, however, executives have taken those challenges in stride. “As we focus on reducing our carbon footprint, the transition to clean equipment seems necessary,” said Manu Garg, Turner’s project executive on The Gateway, in the release. “In the spirit of innovation, we want to hopefully dispel misgivings about transitioning to electrical equipment.”

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