Case unveils Project Zeus: the industry’s first fully electric backhoe

electric backhoe

Case Construction Equipment has introduced Project Zeus, the industry’s first fully electric backhoe.

The 580 EV (Electric Vehicle) delivers the same power and performance of other diesel-powered backhoes in the Case product line and provides lower daily operating costs, while also producing zero emissions — a motivating factor for utility and government contractors. 

Case has already sold two of the electric backhoes in the United States.

As well, Case has the capability to produce additional units throughout 2020 before increasing production to meet greater demand in following years.

“Case built the very first factory-integrated backhoe loader in 1957 and has been at the forefront of backhoe innovation,” said Leandro Lecheta, head of construction equipment for North America at CNH Industrial.

“The 580 EV is a significant step forward in our commitment to sustainability, the evolution of earthmoving equipment and truly practical innovation that drives real savings and competitive advantages for backhoe owners.”

Electrification was performed in conjunction with Green Machine Equipment, Inc. and Moog Inc., and with direct input from utilities and other businesses focused on converting significant portions of their fleets to fully electric backhoes. Case also partnered with Michelin to outfit the first-of-its-kind machine with specialized Michelin CrossGrip tires for even greater efficiency and handling.      

“The backhoe loader is perfectly suited for electrification as the varied use cycles, from heavy to light work, provide an excellent opportunity to convert wasted diesel engine hours into zero consumption battery time — yet provide the operator with instantaneous torque response when needed,” said Eric Zieser, director of global compact equipment product line at Case. “At low idle a diesel engine has reduced torque and requires time for the engine to ramp up to meet the load demands. Electric motors, on the other hand, have instantaneous torque and peak torque available at every operating speed.”

The 580 EV is the second major alternative-powered machine introduced by Case — the manufacturer rolled out the FPT Industrial methane-powered concept wheel loader ProjectTETRA at Bauma 2019.

8-hour workday

The 580 EV is powered by a 480-volt, 90-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged by any 220-volt/three-phase connection.

While applications will vary, each charge will support common eight-hour workdays. The battery separately powers the drivetrain and hydraulic motors, resulting in hydraulic breakout forces equal to diesel-powered machines and improved performance during simultaneous loader and drivetrain operation. 

Utilities, utility contractors, as well as government and public works operations, are well suited for the 580 EV as they generally have initiatives aimed at lowering emissions, reducing noise in public workspaces, and finding new ways to work within budgets.

Electric backhoe sustainability

While the 580 EV will be sold at a higher initial price than diesel-powered backhoe loaders, it is estimated that average fleets will see a payback on that premium in roughly five years. All savings achieved after that will go to improve the bottom line and continue to lower the operation’s carbon footprint.  

The 580 EV electric backhoe operates with zero emissions, which lowers the total carbon footprint for its owners. These are important environmental considerations, but the new backhoe also helps improve fiscal sustainability.

While every application will be different based on its workload, it is estimated that the 580 EV could save fleets as much as 90 per cent in annual vehicle service and maintenance costs when taking into account the reduction/elimination of diesel, engine oil, diesel exhaust fluid, regular preventive maintenance and long-term engine upkeep.

As well, some utilities and contractors are incentivized to deploy electric equipment and vehicles in their fleets, providing even greater financial benefit and further lowering the total cost of ownership.

Each 580 EV electric backhoe comes standard with Case SiteWatch telematics for additional monitoring and management of machine performance and utilization.

While the new 580 EV is electrified, it retains many of the hallmark features that contractors expect from Case backhoe loaders.

“The 580 EV performs like a Case backhoe — matching the power and performance expected from Case with the advantages of an electrified machine,” Zieser said. “Operators will experience the same digging, lifting and craning performance achieved in a diesel-powered machine in a quieter, emissions-free work area. That’s the ultimate goal of our sustainability efforts — improve the world around us, make equipment more sustainable, and to do so while finding new ways to improve productivity and the experience of the people who use the equipment.”

The future of electric

The 580 EV is the first formal entry into the electric equipment market for Case. The manufacturer, in partnership with FPT Industrial, continues to explore additional solutions in electrification, alternative fuels and alternative propulsion systems for equipment across all product lines and industries that help achieve sustainability for all in the construction industry without sacrificing power and performance. These solutions will be introduced and brought to market as industry demand requires.

“We’re proving the viability of electrification at the larger end of the compact and light equipment spectrum,” Zieser said. “Our goal now is to further expand electrification and alternative propulsion into other product lines and markets that will also see the benefits from these advances related to sustainability and performance.”