Sweeping Industry Progressing Toward Electric Future

With two hybrid-electric models and counting, Elgin Sweepers aims to help contractors meet their sustainability goals today, and well into tomorrow

Hybrid Broom Bear In Use Street Left Facing

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The electrification of vehicles has been a hot topic of conversation for the past several years. So much so in fact, that nearly $5 billion over five years was earmarked in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act to help states create a network of EV charging stations to accommodate these vehicles.

Construction, while notoriously slow to adopt new technologies, has stayed on top of this shift and is developing equipment that will help our industry decrease our carbon footprint with the use of these machines.

The sweeping industry has been leading the charge in sustainability for years. Environmental concerns and regulations have become increasingly prevalent over the past several decades, making stormwater and air quality some of the more important reasons to sweep streets, parking lots and other paved surfaces.

With electric and hybrid-electric machines, the industry is well-positioned to meet impending regulations and local sustainability goals while completing this important work for our environment.

“Elgin currently has two hybrid offerings, our Hybrid Broom Bear and Hybrid Pelican,” Tim Letts, Product Manager at Elgin Sweeper says. “These machines were developed to help our customers move towards a green future while delivering uncompromised performance.”

The Hybrid-Electric Advantage 

While the industry is making a move towards all electric machines, there are a few issues holding us back. 

“Street sweepers are mounted on truck chassis and to a certain extent the industry is reliant on the chassis manufacturers for an electric chassis,” Letts says. “Unfortunately for our industry, street sweepers are mounted on a chassis size that is not as high volume which means the electric chassis are not yet readily available. Class 5, 6 and 8 truck chassis are much more in demand, and therefore have received more R&D funding at the chassis manufacture to become electrified.”

Still, hybrid-electric machines are a great way for companies to meet their sustainability goals today. 

“Hybrid units are a great intermediate step for contractors as they can save on fuel costs,” Letts adds. “Emission reduction will vary from customer to customer depending on use case; but we have seen approximately a 25% reduction in fuel/emissions in the trials we have run with our hybrids. Once electric sweepers are available, the overall cost of ownership will be reduced due to lower maintenance costs.  Another element of hybrids and electrics will be the reduced noise levels experienced by operators.”

Addressing Concerns 

With the move towards any electric equipment, there will always be concerns with performance. Rest assured manufacturers are well aware of these concerns and are working to not sacrifice any performance or quality with the move to electric. 

“Our hybrids can complete a full day’s shift and also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change,” Letts says. “The tagline for our hybrid units is “Uncompromised Performance,” because we designed our hybrid street sweepers with sweep performance in mind. Street sweepers have a job to do, and customers expect their Elgin to perform that job without any hiccups.”

Using a SAE J1772 Level 2 charger, Elgin’s Hybrid Broom Bear will charge from 0% to 100% in about 5 hours. The benefit of the hybrid system is that even if the battery is not fully charged, the hybrid truck can still perform a full shift of work while also reducing fuel consumption.

“Hybrids and electrics will also help contractors be more efficient because they will require fewer (if any) stops at the gas station to fill up,” Letts adds. “Also, the reduction in maintenance means more time on the road sweeping.”

Speaking of maintenance, it can be a big point of contention when purchasing new equipment and ease of maintenance is paramount to operator efficiency. Hybrid and electric technologies make maintenance simple for operators. 

“There are two small things to mention about maintenance on the Hybrid Broom Bear compared to a standard Broom Bear,” Letts says. “First, a high pressure water system should never be used during end of shift cleanout. A high pressure water system can cause system malfunctions or damage to the electrical system. A standard hose is enough to clean the unit. Secondly, the water pump is located in a box on the curb side of the truck. Compressed air can be used to clean out debris from within the box.”

Embrace the Future Today

The world around us is changing very quickly and those who embrace the change now will be well-equipped to handle any regulations that will indefinitely come their way in the future. The construction industry, and sweeping manufacturers, will work to ensure owner-operators are aware of the latest technologies available to them that will help make their jobs easier, while also meeting any environmental objectives they may have. 

“Sweeping equipment, like consumer vehicles and other vocational trucks, are certainly changing,” Letts says. “Electric vehicles are on the horizon, but propulsion systems can and will continue to evolve. A lot of the technology found on consumer vehicles (like forward collision alert systems) will also start to be available on street sweepers. We at Elgin are always following the latest technologies and customer trends to see what makes sense to add to our sweepers. Some technologies might not be for all customers, but for those customers who are interested, we at Elgin will be ready to support them.

“I would encourage customers to stay in touch with their local and state governments because every journey to electrification will be unique,” Letts concludes. “Even though the industry is changing, Elgin’s commitment to our customers and the industry are not. We will continue to provide the performance, reliability and customer service that Elgin is known for. Every Elgin, regardless of the propulsion system is “Built For Clean, Backed For Life.””

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