Vanguard Swappable and Fixed Batteries Aim to Electrify the Jobsite

Briggs & Stratton has released a full lineup of fixed and swapable batteries for the electrification for various construction and other off-highway machines.

he FI Series fixed batteries can be paralleled to provide additional capacity. (Briggs & Stratton)

Briggs & Stratton has joined the age of electrification with its line of Vanguard swappable and fixed lithium-ion batteries. Two series of packs are available. The SI Series is the swappable version of the Vanguard batteries. It is a 48V, 1.5-kWh pack meant for applications that would ordinarily utilize a single-cylinder ICE powertrain. The FI Series is the company’s lineup of fixed 48V batteries, with a power range of 3.5 kWh to 10 kWh.

The SI Series swappable battery can be fully charged in just over an hour. (Briggs & Stratton)

SAE Media spoke with Nick Moore, director of product management, at CONEXPO 2023 in Las Vegas to discuss the details of the Vanguard battery lineup and the potential opportunities for electrification of a wide variety of jobsite tools.

SAE: What is the charge time on the swappable battery?

Moore: “You can get to 80 percent in about 45 minutes, and a full charge in just over an hour. If you put it on a piece of equipment that you can get an hour of run time from, you can just hot-swap them all day.”

What was the catalyst for Briggs developing this line of batteries?

“We view ourselves as providers of power, not just engines. Our entire application engineering team is focused on working with our OEMS to make sure they’re using the right piece of equipment for the job. We saw the requirements and regulations that were going to create demand for battery-driven equipment. So we combined our high-volume manufacturing experience with our engine experience and some battery experts that we brought onboard to develop this product line. Now the customer has a greater range of choice between ICE and battery power to suit their needs.”

The largest of the Vanguard FI Series fixed batteries has a capacity of 10 kWh. (Briggs & Stratton)
What are the differences between the swappable batteries and the fixed batteries and what version of your technology do you think will appeal to certain customers?

“We’ve had interest for the swappable batteries for bigger pieces of equipment than we originally thought because it gets rid of the range anxiety. We thought the swappable batteries were going to be adopted by customers looking to replace equipment with our single-cylinder engine. It really becomes channel-focused. For example, rental companies are very excited to have this technology and not have to deal with a multitude of different types of batteries on their shelf. They want as many pieces of equipment to run on the same battery as possible. That said, the biggest differentiator between fixed and swappable batteries is the overall energy demands. If the customer can meet their normal use case with a fixed battery, then they’re happy with that. But if they can only get an hour of run time and need more, then they’ll want the swapable unit.”

What is the typical application for the 10-kWh battery you offer?

“Large, ride-on equipment is probably the main use case. There’s a lot of people who are paralleling the packs together to run 30, 40 or 50 kWh. We also have people testing with some large autonomous agricultural equipment. So larger tractors and equipment of that nature. If you want to power something like a larger zero-turn [mower], you’re going to need north of 20 kWh onboard, so the nice thing with our battery packs is that they’re all able to be paralleled. OEMs also have the option of scalability in terms of price point and available capacity. For example, they can offer a piece of equipment that has 7 kWh onboard, with the option to add additional energy capacity if customers need it. So that gives them the flexibility to sell to the right users who actually need that much capacity.

The Vanguard SI Series swapable battery has a capacity of 1.5 kWh. (Briggs & Stratton)
What would be the equilivent single-cylinder engine to your swapable battery in terms of output?

Our 160-cc engine is typically the right product for customers who would be considering this tech. The weights between these power solutions are actually very similar. The batteries weigh about 26 pounds (11.7 kg). The engine is around 40 pounds (18.1 kg). When you add up the weight of the fuel tank for the engine versus the electric motor for the battery solution, the weights are about the same.

What are the selling points for potential customers who may not be convinced that they want to electrify their machines?

The batteries really are meant for commercial run time. They’re rated for 2,000 cycles. Even after that service life, the battery is still going to have 80% of its original capacity. The range anxiety is absolutely real for a lot of customers. So we’ve been able to help them understand how fast they can charge or that they can swap a battery, which eliminates that entirely. We’re actually using a different cell in our swappable battery than we are in our fixed ones. The swapable battery has a very high energy capability because of the wide range of equipment that it may be used in. For example, certain engines may only run for 15 seconds or so with an immense load, but then are sitting idle for the rest of the day. So we needed to make sure that the batteries were capable of meeting that need.

What’s the feedback from operators that have previously been running single-cylinder machines that have now experienced the battery-powered equilivent?

The biggest difference a lot of them have noticed is noise. The exhaust from the engine would typically drown out a lot of the noises that these machines make on their own. So now its different noise that they’re hearing. The vibration is also significantly reduced because in a lot of cases the engine was the source of vibration. So it becomes a much better operator experience.