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July 24, 20233 min read

A Power Struggle: The Need for Commonization in Off-Road Charging Standards

This is a summary from the presentation of the same title by Austin Caskey, Product Line Manager - Material Handling at Sunbelt Rentals, at the Future of Electrification 2023 conference. Watch the full session here: 

In his presentation, Austin Caskey spoke about the importance of sustainability in the North American equipment rental industry. He emphasized that the industry is uniquely positioned to lead the way in sustainable solutions, highlighting that sustainability is becoming increasingly important to customers of all sizes.

The equipment rental industry plays a vital role in promoting sustainability. By providing a platform for the sharing and re-use of equipment, rental companies help reduce waste and promote resource efficiency. These companies have embraced eco-conscious practices, including investing in energy-efficient electric and hybrid equipment. With the rising demand for sustainable practices in construction projects and at industrial sites, rental companies are well-equipped to meet these requirements. They also possess in-depth knowledge of the challenges that accompany sustainable practices. Their experience and expertise make them invaluable partners in advancing sustainability and driving positive change in the industry.

Equipment rental companies are often at the forefront of innovation and technological advancements in the industry. They closely monitor market trends and are quick to adopt new sustainable solutions, ensuring that their rental fleets remain current with the latest advancements. This ability to anticipate progress and trends allows the rental industry to be proactive in promoting and supporting sustainable practices. It also means that they can provide valuable feedback to manufacturers, influencing the refinement and improvement of new technologies. Equipment rental companies are instrumental in educating customers about the advantages and considerations of using electrified equipment. This is particularly important for smaller or local customers who may encounter challenges in transitioning to new technologies. By providing guidance and support, rental companies help bridge the adoption gap, making it easier for customers to embrace and benefit from electrified equipment. 

According to Caskey, one of the biggest challenges to electrification and sustainability in the off-road equipment industry is the lack of standardization in charging systems. Manufacturers are pushing proprietary features and failing to embrace commonization, hindering the progress of sustainability. This lack of standardization poses significant challenges for rental companies and their customers, as they need to invest in multiple charging solutions to accommodate equipment from various manufacturers. The use of non-standard chargers can result in compatibility issues, limiting the flexibility and interoperability of electrified equipment in the rental industry. Ultimately, these challenges decrease the likelihood of customers adopting electric equipment.

Caskey advocated a straightforward solution: off-road equipment manufacturers must embrace commonization and charging standards. Standardizing chargers for electrified off-road equipment would bring numerous benefits to the industry and its stakeholders. First, it would ensure compatibility between different equipment models and manufacturers, enabling equipment to be charged using standardized infrastructure. This eliminates the need to invest in multiple charging solutions, streamlining operations and reducing costs. It simplifies the process of expanding electric fleets or introducing new equipment models, as they can seamlessly integrate with existing charging infrastructure. 

In addition, standardized chargers offer a user-friendly experience. They provide a consistent and familiar charging process, enabling users to easily connect and charge equipment. This improves efficiency and reduces the learning curve associated with using different charging solutions.

Standardization also encourages collaboration and innovation among equipment manufacturers, charging infrastructure providers, and industry stakeholders. It fosters the development of common solutions, allowing for the sharing of knowledge, best practices, and advancements in charging technology. This collaborative approach drives the industry forward, accelerating the adoption of electrified equipment and sustainability initiatives.

Caskey emphasized the critical role of commonization and charging standards in achieving widespread acceptance of electric equipment and advancing sustainability goals. He pointed to the on-road car industry as a model, where standardized EV charging ports have facilitated the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. By implementing similar standards in the off-road vehicle industry, it can advance to the next level of electrification, benefiting both the industry and the environment.

The equipment rental industry, with its unique ability to see and experience trends before many others, is in a position to lead the way in sustainable solutions. By embracing commonization and charging standards, it can continue to maximize sustainability opportunities at all levels and be a primary driver in the success of electric equipment.