It’s hard to say what the odds of this bet were at the time. On one hand, it had never been done with any commercial success. On the other hand, OSC Equipment & Manufacturing had extensive mechanical and technical experience with machinery and green construction. Not to mention one of the largest and most capable equipment dealerships in Western New York.
Within a year of making that bet, OSC began testing electric-powered drive systems in one of their cost centers for research and development. Having sufficiently satisfied the conditions of the bet, it was time for Williams to collect. The regional director of National Grid, an energy delivery company for the northeastern U.S., said that in return for designing the electric construction vehicle, Williams could field test the vehicle at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Green Machine was started by OSC in 2010 to make lithium-ion battery packs and electric drive systems to replace diesel and internal combustion engines in heavy-duty construction equipment. After six years of field testing and five different generations of electric drive systems, Williams brought his battery pack to market in 2018. At that time, OSC’s electric endeavors were restructured.
Viridi Parente was created in 2018 and is the parent company of Green Machine Equipment Inc. and Volta Energy Products Inc. The company is dedicated to the development and production of renewable energy technologies for industrial applications. For backup power and grid applications, Viridi is currently offering the lithium-ion WHISPERTECH™ Clean Power Supply System, a fully scalable alternative to fossil-fuel-fired generators as a backup power solution.
Volta Energy Products, also created in 2018, focuses on the lithium-ion cells that form the building blocks for the Green Machine battery packs. Volta also researches new solutions that can improve battery pack design and performance.
Currently, Green Machine offers four different platforms that house their battery packs: two hydraulic excavators, a portable trailer-mounted light tower, and a tow-behind skid steer. Green Machine’s power packs are uniquely designed for construction purposes, whereas most other EV conversions are derived from automobile electric packs. “Automobile battery packs are less predictable and meant for one purpose,” Williams said, “whereas you never quite know where construction equipment is going to end up or what it will be used for.”
Green Machine’s e240 electric mini-excavator is not only turning heads with its zero emissions, but the machine outperforms many diesel-powered excavators. Designed to last a full shift on one charge, the e240 is noticeably silent and free of carbon monoxide output. It costs only $3.78 per day to recharge the e240, and it can produce up to 216 foot-pounds of torque. The e240 has a battery/engine life of 12 years, although none of its machines have been in operation long enough to verify this.
“We have spent over six years getting [our battery pack] right in the lab, which inevitably required a lot of destructive testing,”
Williams said with a chuckle. Their two biggest focuses were keeping the pack maintained and redirecting the heat and pressure from any “uncontrolled events,” such as thermal runaway, which is when a cell spontaneously self-destructs. Thermal runaway can propagate to other battery cells and possibly the machine itself. The chance of propagation occurring is small, but it can be significantly reduced with better battery designs. Electric automobiles deal with these uncontrolled events by directing heat and pressure downward toward the road, but construction vehicles do not have this luxury. Instead, Williams’ team designed a pressurized vessel made of 304 stainless steel to contain any uncontrolled events.
Distributing Renewable Energy Systems
Along with Green Machine’s offerings, Williams envisions selling his carefully tested battery packs back to OEMs. Green Machine will bring in a prospective machine from an OEM, reconfigure the shell to fit their battery pack, and ship it back to the OEM. After vigorous testing, the OEM will commission Green Machine to build a certain number of machines before picking up the line for in-house manufacturing and distribution.
“We’ve got 300,000 square feet of production space that’s ready to be outfitted,” Williams told the Buffalo Times last October. “We currently have a number of companies at the table that we’re negotiating with to develop drive systems.” Williams reported eight different projects currently in development. In its attempt to start contracting with OEMs, Viridi Parente has gathered over $4 million in private equity funding and has a $1 million working capital line of credit from KeyBank, a $1.4 million loan from an affiliate of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, and a $600,000 loan from the Western New York Impact Investment Fund. Expanded operations will likely occur on the company’s industrial site in Buffalo’s East Side.
When pitching his electric drive system to OEMs, Williams has run into temporary skepticism. “They say it cannot have enough power, or that it won’t work on their particular platform. But as soon as they get in the seat, they realize it is just a better machine. Hydraulics were designed for electric. With a flat torque curve of power rather than the variable power curve associated with diesels, operators enjoy predictable torque throughout use. This predictability brings about added functionality.”
To see what platforms Viridi Parente’s battery packs will end up in next, Williams encourages dealers to attend next year’s CONDEX event in Chicago, January 14-17, 2020.
Dealers wishing to demo Green Machine’s equipment are welcome to contact their sales team at 508-983-2520. The company frequently sends demo units to dealers across the nation to show off the power of electric.
Sustainable Construction for Hearts and Minds
A leading cause of our workforce shortage are the misconceptions that surround our profession. Many people are unaware of the variety of positions available in the industry and of the high pay that goes with these positions. And there is a growing subset of people who see construction and heavy equipment as a threat to environmental sustainability. But as we know, this does not have to be the case.
Aside from bringing about a much-needed breakthrough in heavy equipment engine design, Jon Williams and his team are changing perceptions about what the construction equipment industry is and can be. Senator Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee, said, “The work being done by Viridi Parente is emblematic of the entrepreneurial spirit that New York State is going to rely upon to meet our aggressive energy goals to combat climate change.”