At the center of some of the most influential technological transformations in recent years, compact machines have proved to be a breeding ground for innovation and application versatility. The product experts at Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) explain why they continue to be the most popular segment on the market.
The global compact construction equipment market – consisting of compact excavators, skid steer loaders, compact track loaders and compact wheel loaders – was valued at more than US $10 billion in 2017 and is likely to reach more than US $15 billion by the end of 2025.
According to analysts, sales of mini excavators alone represented almost 23% of the 1.1 million units of construction equipment sold worldwide last year.
A recent report from Fact.MR projects the compact excavator market will grow 2.7% through 2026 due to the popularity of these machines for a range of construction and other applications.
For compact wheel loaders, currently valued at US $4.8 billion, the market is expected to grow another 3% over the next 10 years.
Their popularity is most likely attributed to their versatility, says Helmut Broy, Compact Wheel Loader Business Platform Leader at Volvo CE. He says, “Compact wheel loaders are service machines that can support any segment, from landscape and gardening to road, civil engineering and agriculture. They are essential multi-tool carriers required for today’s diverse business landscape.”
The compact construction equipment industry contains products which are small, robust, can fit into smaller places, are versatile in application, and are cost effective – all of which explain their increased adoption as demand for infrastructure and construction grows. And they have become more popular across almost all regions – with Europe and North America remaining the top markets for Volvo CE. Across all global manufacturers, however, it is Asia that is expected to become the largest market for compact construction equipment in the near future – due in part to the region’s rise in urban infrastructure.
Another prominent factor for the machines’ popularity is the rise in electromobility, which is redefining the market in major ways. Manufacturers have invested heavily in developing electric solutions in this sector, not least Volvo CE – who as the first OEM to commit to moving its compact product line from diesel to electric in Europe is arguably leading the industry revolution. From mid-2020, Volvo CE will begin to launch its range of electric compact excavators (EC15 to EC27) and wheel loaders (L20 to L28), stopping new diesel engine-based development of these models.
“It’s easy to understand why this segment has been so attracted to electromobility,” says Broy. “Cities want to – and need to – drive down their emissions and as regulations become more prevalent our customer base is increasingly looking for electric machines to meet these requirements. Compact machines are built for inner city work and if you add in zero exhaust fumes and a quieter, safer work environment, you have a complete package perfectly suited to urban applications. The customer demand for sustainable products are increasing and we, at Volvo CE, have cared for many years on developing and driving a focus on this area.”
Electric machines are bringing with them altogether new segments for the business – and even traditional customers are showing signs of being more open to this new technology. Elodie Guyot, Electric Compact Excavator Project Manager at Volvo CE, who oversaw the launch of the ECR25 Electric, says, “Since we announced the launch of our new machines we have been getting increasingly diverse requests from the market. Landscaping and utility works are typical applications for compact excavators, but we are now also receiving requests for other job sites such as indoor demolition or tunneling maintenance. It is these new applications which benefit from zero exhaust fumes and low noise, providing a far more pleasant work environment.”
The ability to innovate in this segment is a testament to the reliability synonymous with Volvo compact machines. This machine reliability, with a long-lasting life span, is why the rental model works so well in the compact market, which holds a much higher percentage in the market compared to other product lines, such as general purpose excavators. And the introduction of electromobility is likely to see the rental business become even more widespread in the future.
“Compact equipment is right at the heart of these changes in the market,” says Broy. “It’s not possible to just release new products to the market and leave it be. We need to develop, lift and innovate.” For Volvo CE, this means setting up customer pilots to test the real-life applications of these electric compact machines, which are now currently underway.
Guyot adds, “When it comes to testing the potential for new innovations, it’s very important to start with segments that are very visible. And then it becomes easier to shift electric technologies through to other areas.”
The prominence of the compact machine market, therefore, makes it the perfect place to bring electromobility to the forefront.