Case Unveils Fully-Electric Backhoe Loader, Begins Delivery This Year

Utilities and municipalities are the target customer for the new limited-production 580 EV backhoe loader, which will ramp up to higher volumes in 2021.

Battery charge for the new 580 EV is expected to be sufficient for a typical eight-hour workday. (SAE/Ryan Gehm)

Case Construction Equipment’s move toward alternative propulsion took another step forward at March’s ConExpo-Con/Agg Show when it revealed “Project Zeus,” also known as the 580 EV electric backhoe loader. Leandro Lecheta, head of construction equipment in North America for CNH Industrial, was quick to point out that the fully-electric machine is not a concept – it’s available for sale today and already has two customer orders in the U.S.

Electrification delivers performance superior to diesel during simultaneous loader and drivetrain operation, said Case. (SAE/Ryan Gehm)

The 580 EV is Case’s first formal entry into the electric-equipment market. “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, Case director of global compact equipment product line. “We’re proving the viability of electrification at the larger end of the compact and light equipment spectrum. Our goal now is to further expand electrification and alternative propulsion into other product lines and markets.”

The 580 EV is powered by a 480-volt, 90-kWh lithium-ion battery pack weighing 1,300 lb (590 kg) that can be charged in eight hours by any 220-volt/three-phase connection. A single battery charge will support most common eight-hour workdays, according to Edward Brenton, product marketing manager. 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, he said.

Unique tires, input from utilities

Electrification was performed in collaboration with Green Machine Equipment and motion and fluid controls specialist Moog, as well as with direct input from utilities and other businesses focused on converting portions of their fleets to electric backhoes. The electric machine has been under development for over a year, according to Brenton, with electrification work taking place in Buffalo, NY, where the battery-drive systems manufacturer Green Machine is headquartered.

Case also partnered with Michelin to outfit the 580 EV with low-rolling-resistance CrossGrip tires that feature a special rubber compound and patented non-directional tread design. The four-season tire provides 196 tread blocks per wheel rotation, helping to reduce vibration and provide enhanced handling and high-load capacity for operation on a variety of surface conditions.

The company is targeting utilities and utility contractors, as well as government and public works operations for the 580 EV, to help satisfy initiatives aimed at lowering emissions and reducing noise in public areas. Many contractors in these sectors either drive or trailer these machines back to a central shop or yard at the end of the day, making it easier to plug into existing electrical infrastructure, or to establish charging stations in a controlled yard. Two units have been sold to utilities in the U.S.: New York State Electric & Gas and Rochester Gas and Electric (subsidiaries of Avangrid) and National Grid.

Case plans to deliver these first two units soon after the ConExpo event in Las Vegas concludes. The company has the capability to produce additional units throughout 2020 before ramping up production to meet greater demand in 2021, said Lecheta. “While we are officially rolling out the first units now, we will continue to evolve and refine the platform, working with trusted electrification experts,” he said.

The 580 EV will be sold at a higher initial price than diesel-powered backhoe loaders, but Lecheta expects that average fleets will see a payback on that premium in about five years. Based on a machine’s workload, Case estimates that the 580 EV could save fleets as much as 90% 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/maintenance (and the associated labor rates and downtime savings).

Every 580 EV comes standard with Case SiteWatch telematics for additional monitoring and management of machine performance and utilization. It retains other features found on diesel-powered Case backhoes such as ProControl, which allows for precise boom movement and placement, as well as Comfort Steer, which improves steering while working in tight quarters or in truck-loading operations. The machine also employs the new enhanced joystick controls found in the most recent generation of Case N Series backhoes, as well as in-cab amenities such as premium seat options and Bluetooth radio.