Liebherr life cycle study identifies GHG-saving drives

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A study commissioned by the Liebherr Group suggests that when reducing greenhouse gas emissions on construction equipment, the most efficient drive system depends on the type of machine.

Frontier Economics, a consulting firm, conducted a life cycle analysis of greenhouse gas emissions from typical construction machinery equipped with various drive technologies. The company has determined the amount of CO2 released from production to operation to recycling of the machines. This includes the extraction and transport of raw materials used in the production of the equipment, the actual operation of the machine, as well as disposal and recycling.

He focused on mobile cranes, concrete mixers and wheel loaders.

According to Liebherr, the aim of the study was to comprehensively calculate the emissions of machines and their drives in order to be able to recognize and evaluate how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced most effectively.

“Emissions analyzes are generally limited to the operating phase,” said Stephen Albrecht, member of the board of directors of Liebherr-International AG, in a prepared statement. “This is not enough for our products because greenhouse gas emissions also occur in the upstream and downstream phases of the life cycle of construction machinery. To get the full picture, we looked at all stages of the lifecycle, including power generation and infrastructure provision.

These results are combined into what is known as the product carbon footprint, which describes a product’s emissions throughout its life cycle.

Which engine is the most carbon neutral in construction equipment?

The three types of equipment require different drive technologies to reduce emissions as much as possible due to their different performance requirements.

  • For concrete mixers, electric drives make the greatest contribution to emission reductions provided they use 100% renewable electricity for charging.
  • For mobile cranes, operation with hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) has the greatest savings potential. The important thing is that HVO is certified to be produced from vegetable and food waste, for example, and does not contain palm oil. Hydrogen made from CO2-neutral sources follows in second place. In the long term, operation with hydrogen seems optimal because the availability of HVO in the large quantities required cannot yet be predicted. However, until the hydrogen infrastructure and required drive technologies are mature, HVO offers the best results as an interim technology, especially in existing fleets with combustion engines.
  • Wheel loaders should be operated with either a battery electric drive charged with renewable electricity or e-fuels.

“The results of the life cycle analysis show that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for climate-neutral drives for construction machinery,” says Albrecht. Liebherr therefore relies on a technology-neutral approach and can thus reduce emissions as much as possible depending on the machine and the application.

Liebherr markets a variety of construction equipment and plans to use the study results to compare various drive technologies. The smallest machines have an output of 30 kW, the largest an output of more than 3,000 kW. All of these machines have to operate reliably under completely different conditions in various applications, according to Liebherr.

“A wheel loader on an urban construction site, for example, is exposed to different conditions than a mobile crane used in the construction of wind turbines,” Albrecht said. “The former can often be powered by electricity. In contrast, infrastructure projects in rural areas often lack the power supply necessary for a power connection. In addition, it often takes more energy than can be supplied with a battery-powered electric drive.”

Based on the results of the life cycle analysis, Liebherr supports the adoption of a technology-neutral approach in the transformation of the construction industry.

“Effective climate targets and incentives for the construction machinery sector must allow for technological diversity so that the most environmentally friendly technology can be used based on performance requirements,” Albrecht said. With this in mind, the electric battery should not be seen as a universal solution, but as an important technology in the future propulsion mix, according to Liebherr. In addition to electric drives, Liebherr is also closely monitoring hydrogen, including setting regulatory conditions for the production of hydrogen and e-fuels, which are made from renewable sources.

Source: Liebherr

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