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Thumbs up for electric Volvo – and Gold Medal for its garden

Digger Blogger | 12:00, Wed May 29 2019

This time a month ago, Volvo Construction Equipment was anticipating the real-life debut of its battery-powered ECR25 mini excavator – building the Morgan Stanley Garden at the Royal Horticultural Society’s 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. So how did it get on?

Well, now the show is over we can report that the Morgan Stanley Garden, devised by UK designer Chris Beardshaw – won Best Show Garden at the world-famous flower show.

But we can also report that it also earned the accolade of the quietest garden from BBC television film crews covering the event.

The build-up to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is quite a major undertaking of construction logistics. Chelsea is not just an array of vases on a trestle table in the village hall. These are complete instantly-mature gardens, featuring brickwork, metalwork, timber, stone and all kinds of elaborate structures to provide a backdrop to the flora.

Chris Beardshaw packed in as many environmental features as he could, including sustainable building materials and tools, ultra-low carbon concrete, glued laminated timber and low energy lights. To ensure the lightest environmental footprint, his team brought in the Volvo ECR25 Electric on its premier outing since its launch at the Bauma trade fair Munich in April.

Ahcène Nedjimi, electromobility specialist at Volvo Construction Equipment, says: “I have been working for a long time on concept machines, but with this project you really get the feeling that you are doing something unique, that electromobility is becoming a reality and that we are sending the clearest possible message that the environment matters. It is a significant moment in Volvo CE’s journey towards building a more sustainable future.”

Ahcène Nedjimi, Volvo CE's electromobility specialist
Ahcène Nedjimi, Volvo CE's electromobility specialist

The battery-powered digger emits zero particulate matter and zero carbon dioxide. It is also substantially quieter than conventional diesel powered machines.

On a landscaping project like this, the lack of polluting spew reduces the risk of damage to the precious trees and herbaceous borders.

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Ahcène Nedjimi says that not only does it offer the same digging performance as its conventional counterpart, and with less maintenance, but it also does not require any special safety certification. “It is such an intense work zone, right in the heart of London, so it really offered the perfect arena to showcase its unique capabilities for inner city environments,” he says.

The ECR25 at work on the prize-winning garden
The ECR25 at work on the prize-winning garden

The machine was put to work over a week and a half during the intensive build process, where it was used to excavate the site, dig the foundations for the main structure and trench for tree pits and a central water feature. Overnight charging was carried out at the end of each workday in the show’s compound, using a regular household plug socket. When quick charges were required during the day, the operator used the machine’s on-board charger.

Operator Peter Holmberg reports that the excavator not only performed the same jobs as the more conventional diesel version, but that the digging feeling was” more pleasant and more precise”. It also provided a calmer work environment, he says, as there was less vibration in the cab, better air quality and a quieter atmosphere that allowed for clearer communication between workers.

Operator Peter Holmberg gives it his seal of approval
Operator Peter Holmberg gives it his seal of approval

Following this debut, the electric machine will now go on to take part in customer pilots, where lessons from Chelsea will be taken forward.

“Zero emissions and lower noise levels is an absolute game changer,” says Ahcène Nedjimi. “The challenge now is to figure out the best way to charge them in a faster way. That’s something we are working on now.”

He concludes: “The question is no longer when, or if, we will have a shift to electromobility, but how fast it will come. We are really at the tipping point with no point of return. We need to emit less, pollute less and build the world we want to live in.”


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