GRIDSERVE partners with SMT GB on Volvo electric excavator trial

Using a Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator charged with clean solar energy could help the public EV charge point provider to minimise the environmental impact of its installation operations, while improving uptime and health and safety on site.

Sustainable energy company GRIDSERVE teamed up with SMT GB to trial the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator in the construction of its new High Power Electric Super Hub at Moto Scotch Corner Services on the A1(M) south of Darlington.

GRIDSERVE used the 2.5 tonne fully electric machine supplied by SMT GB to dig trenches for the transformers, power banks, charging units, and cabling to connect 12 new 350kW electric vehicle (EV) chargers to the grid.

These ultra high-power EV chargers with contactless payment feature both CCS and CHAdeMO connectors, are capable of adding up to 100 miles of range in less than 10 minutes, and are part of GRIDSERVE’s expansion plans as it seeks to facilitate the shift to electric motoring.

GRIDSERVE trialled a Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator from SMT GB in the construction of a new Electric Super Hub.

Moving the needle on climate change

GRIDSERVE is one of the UK’s main providers of public EV charging, with its Electric Highway covering 80% of UK motorways through over 300 charging points at service stations and other locations. By 2025, the company has committed to installing 5,000 new high-power chargers, including at new Electric Super Hubs and Electric Forecourts.

Crucially, GRIDSERVE also operates its own solar and battery farms to replace the energy drawn from the grid by its network of public EV chargers with 100% net zero carbon energy. This Sun-to-Wheel ecosystem is how GRIDSERVE plans to move the needle on climate change – and using an electric Volvo excavator from SMT GB will help ensure the installation aspect of its operations is sustainable too.

Richard Hallas, Chief Delivery Officer at GRIDSERVE, sees electric excavators as part of the future of sustainable construction.

A solution for sustainable construction

“Our CEO, Toddington Harper, attended MOVE in 2022, which is an exhibition for innovation in sustainable transport, and saw the Volvo electric excavator. He was very impressed and is always thinking about how we can innovate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the value chain. So we had some discussions with SMT GB about how it might work for us, and here we are,” explained Richard Hallas, Chief Delivery Officer at GRIDSERVE.

GRIDSERVE charged the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator using solar energy generated on site by one of its portable Solar Energy Centres.

To guarantee the Volvo ECR25 Electric is truly emission free, GRIDSERVE powered it from one of its Solar Energy Centres (SEC), which is a portable, modular unit topped with solar panels that can be easily transported to any construction site to generate and store solar power. As well as charging electric construction equipment or power tools, it could also power safety lighting and welfare cabins.

Operator Taylor Mence charges the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator using renewable energy from the GRIDSERVE Solar Energy Centre.

Simple charging in an hour

Using the SEC and a standard charging cable, GRIDSERVE charged the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator with clean, renewable energy in just one hour over lunch, so that it can complete a four-hour shift in the afternoon. Overall the ECR25 Electric Excavator was able to complete a full 8 hour day from the sustainable Solar Energy Centre (SEC)

“Four hours of continuous operation is longer than we would need in a normal day, and it is so easy to charge. We can charge it over lunch or overnight so it’s ready for the guys to use whenever they need it – and we’re not using any fossil fuels at all, just the natural energy we get from the sun on site,” Richard said.

A screen inside the cab of the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator shows the charge of the battery and time until fully charged, the runtime, and operating hours for easy machine management.

For those who might be concerned about the hours of sunshine on British jobsites, the SEC contains an intelligent brain to predict energy consumption and optimise generation and storage, along with an HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) back-up generator as a last resort.

“The SEC understands where it is in the world and the hours of sun it is realistically going to get. For example, if it’s early in the morning and the battery is almost drained, it knows the sun will be coming up soon and to hold off starting the generator. So, we really do suppress the use of HVO to generate energy as much as possible,” Richard explained.

The quiet operation of the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator improves safety on site by facilitating clearer communication between staff.

Quiet operation for greater site safety

Powered by the SEC, the Volvo ECR25 Electric worked well on the Electric Super Hub construction site at Moto Scotch Corner Services. Besides its environmental credentials and simple charging, GRIDSERVE has been pleased with the excavator’s quiet and zero emission operation from a health and safety perspective.

“Health and safety on site is paramount for us. We’re very keen on making sure everybody is working safely, and by not having that diesel engine noise we can communicate more easily and clearly without the need for radios or signals. The lack of diesel exhaust fumes is also more pleasant and comfortable for all the people who are working here,” Richard said.

Operator Taylor Mence added: “It’s my first time driving an electric digger and it’s got the same pull and power as a diesel machine, just without the fumes and noise, which is a lot better. Normally, when I’ve got my banksman screaming at me and I can’t hear a word he is saying over the engine, I have to switch the machine off, but you don’t have that problem with an electric one.”

Given the new Electric Super Hub was constructed directly next to a Travelodge at Moto Scotch Corner Services, the quiet and fume-free operation also helped minimise potential disturbance to the hotel guests.

The quiet operation and lack of diesel exhaust fumes from the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator makes work more pleasant for all staff on site, while reducing potential disturbance to the public.

Maintenance made easy

In addition, Richard praised the Volvo ECR25 Electric’s simple maintenance requirements. “Because it’s electric, you don’t need to do oil and filter changes after so many hours. So, there’s less downtime and you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to dispose of the oil sustainably. You just have to make sure it’s charged, and it’ll tell you if there are any faults on it that need addressing,” he said.

“I think there is some education to be done to let people know just how easy electric machines are to use, charge, and maintain. A lot of people can be very set in their ways and think ‘I don’t want to go electric, I don’t own an electric car and I don’t know it works’ but it’s so straightforward,” he continued.

Taylor added: “To me, it’s pretty simple. If an electric machine can do the same job as a diesel one, but with no emissions and less noise, why wouldn’t you want to make the switch?”

Operator Taylor Mence says the Volvo ECR25 Electric excavator delivers performance equivalent to a diesel machine, but with the benefits of quieter and more comfortable operation.

A promising partnership for decarbonisation

So far, the trial is proving a success for all involved – and given GRIDSERVE’s major expansion plans over the next few years, using Volvo electric excavators from SMT GB in the EV charge point installation process could make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the company’s operations.

“Who doesn’t know Volvo and isn’t impressed with what they are doing with their technology? It’s been absolutely fantastic to partner with both SMT GB and Volvo on this project so we can push our sustainability targets and move towards decarbonisation together,” Richard concluded.

For further information, please contact:

Alex Cox
Marketing & Communications Officer
01223 251815

Hannah Kitchener
PR Support
07432 296296