Electrification meets challenges in North America

At the ARA Show in New Orleans in February, IRN visited the Takeuchi stand to see its first fully battery-powered machine, the TB20E mini excavator. While there, Justin Smith, regional product manager, Takeuchi, talked IRN through the company’s approach to alternative power, future plans for electric equipment and the North American rental market.

IRN: What is Takeuchi’s approach to electrification?

JS: The TB20E’s is our first step into the fully battery-powered electric market, we’re still tip toeing into that market. So far, we’ve released this to our major rental companies and our entire dealer network has access to this machine now.

It’s our first step in approaching an electric machine into the market.

IRN: Is there anything else in the pipeline that Takeuchi is working on?

JS: I can’t give specific models, but I can tell you that when you look at our product line, we’re going to be looking at any product that has a large take rate in the industry.

Anything we think that can create value in the industry, that’s going to be the models we’re going to be looking at moving forward with.

We’ve got a few other models in the works. We’ll just have to see how that plays out with our market and the industry as a whole in the US moving towards electric machines.

IRN: Are you noting an increasing focus on electrification in North America?

JS: I don’t think as a whole we are in North America. We’re gaining some traction in some different niche markets where these machines can be used. We’re a long way from being caught up with what other countries are doing with electrification, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

The TB20e has similar performance to Takeuchi’s diesel-powered TB216 but with lower noise and zero emissions. (Photo: Takeuchi

Takeuchi as a whole is trying to look as a global company, not just the US and where we can help impact environment and also impact our communities in a better way by using some electric machines.

IRN: Takeuchi is relatively new to the electric segment, with the TB20e its first electric excavator machine. How has it been received?

JS: It was released to some of our national rental accounts. They helped us do some trial runs with this machine and let us work the kinks out.

As this is our first step into the electric machine market, we wanted to make sure we got it right before we released it to the dealer public and our dealer network in general.

We’ve been toying with this machine for over a year now in the US market, but it’s just got released. North America I believe was the first one to actually test run this machine. 

Where is the machine available, and what rental companies offer it as part of their fleet? 

JS: United Rentals, but we’ve got some other partners that are using it in the national rental world and also our dealer network is starting to consider the machine for some of their own rental fleets.

We’ve had a lot of customer interest in Colorado,  the northeast in California and some of those states are a little bit farther ahead of the game with electrification, but it’s still a growing industry. We’ll have to see where it goes.

IRN: What, in your opinion, are the barriers to electrification?

JS: The biggest thing is the initial cost. The machine is quite a bit more to get into the machine initially than in diesel powered unit of the same size.

I think making sure that they’re going to be able to keep that utilized in the rental fleets is probably the biggest caution that throws up with every customer that looks at. Even our contractors look at it and they just want to make sure they’re going to have a justification enough to oversight all that cost that comes with buying these machines because they’re not quite what we would call completely affordable yet, but we’re getting there.

IRN: How does Takeuchi overcome that?

JS: I think it just takes time, the whole construction industry has got to adopt more acceptance for the electric machines in general, and in the US as a whole we are still in the infancy stages. I think with all the electrification on vehicles, even though they’ve been around a while, we’re still working through a lot of obstacles we’ve had so I think it’s just going to take time.

IRN: What will drive demand for electric machines in North America? 

JS: Regulations will drop some of it and I think the general public seeing what can do with this machine, seeing that it’s just as productive as a diesel powered counterpart in an 8 hour work day, a lot of those things are going to determine how much these things are accepted and adopted into the construction market.

IRN: How would you describe the current condition of the rental market in North America? 

JS: We’ve still got a lot of strong business out there, so to me the outlook is really bright right now for us. Even with some of the interest rates and some of the other things that have been higher than normal, I think most people are still continuing to do business as normal so.

The rental industry is in a really good spot and I’ve been involved in construction and rental almost my entire life and in the past 15 years, I’ve seen nothing but growth in general in the construction market side and rental industry. 

IRN: What are rental companies looking for in terms of machine specification? 

JS: They’re looking for a machine that’s specific to whatever their fleet size is, and also something that is low cost of ownership that’s going to be reliable and keep up with their rental customers demand. From Takeuchi’s standpoint, I think we fit that bill perfectly.

We are a very well built machine, with very efficient customers that enjoy being in the machines, operating them and we’ve got a pretty large footprint in the rental industry in general.

IRN: Are there any plans to move into electrification of heavier equipment?

JS: Possibly. Takeuchi is a compact construction equipment manufacturer in general, so I don’t think we’re going to go out of that necessarily. But as the public demands and as our technology expands on the product line, we have the potential to do track loaders and other items. It’ll just be more of what the take rate is from our customers.


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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]