SPOA visit Balfour Beatty Sustainable Evolution Showcase

Balfour Beatty kindly hosted SPOA members this week (09/11/2021) at their sustainable evolution showcase.

Some thirty members were split into groups for a two and a half hour tour of various stands which included everyone from machine manufacturers to tool suppliers and national plant hirers. Here is a brief summary of what was on display.


Site survey:

Balfour Beatty employ their own team of surveyors and setting out engineers, as a business they are keen to be leaders when it comes to technology and efficiency.

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Over recent years Balfour Beatty have invested in a fleet of “drones” including both quad prop and fixed wing.

SPOA members were treated to an insight into how these drones are used to slash time off surveying projects which would traditionally require days/weeks/months of work.

On the screen you can see the predetermined flight path for surveying the Shotts site with the orange fixed wing unit. 20-40 mins of flight followed by a further 4-6 hours of the software generating a digital model. Taking measurements or cross sections for calculating cuts and fills and indeed for creating models for using with 3D machine control has literally never been easier and though the technology is expensive it is accessible to smaller contractors via a multitude of specialist surveyors including SPOA member Northern Survey.

Site setup:

Every site across the country relies on welfare facilities of some sort, be it a full modular building block or just a simple 22ft canteen, WC and drying room.

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Colin Haxton from GAP Group gave members an informative presentation on the latest low emission and ZERO emission provisions.

Of particular mention are the eco smart ZERO cabin which runs for around 5 weeks on a fill of hydrogen & the PowerCube which stores upto 90kW hours of energy and can then be recharged by hybrid generator…. Can you imagine only running on diesel for 8-12 hours a week and the battery pack supplying the power? If we do a quick calculation on what that means ahead of Red Diesel Rebate on 1st April 2022, using a PowerCube and hybrid generator in place of a 30kva generator consuming 9 litres of diesel an hour could this time next year result in a saving of white diesel worth £1550+vat per week…. It pays for itself!


Plant and equipment:

There were two manufacturers making presentations, it’s fair to say that the aim of their attendance was to communicate and collaborate with industry visitors, educate on where we are now and what we can action today to make a positive effect on reducing our environmental impact.

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Wacker Neuson have been leading the way for a number of years on electric plant and tools. Their display included battery trench rammers, plate compactors and backpack high frequency vibrators all of which use their modular battery platform. Sam Butterworth of Wacker Neuson UK gave an in depth talk on how the system works, how fast it charges and how long the run times are. Confirming to the group that technology has come on a long way recently.

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Wacker Neuson market development manager, Kevin Ranshaw presented the WL20e loader, DW15e dumper and the EZ17e mini excavator which the SPOA President was quick to demonstrate.

The award winning EZ17e operated very well, fast and smooth as you’d expect and whilst the high pitch of the motors will take some getting used to at full revs it is substantially quieter than a 3cyl Diesel rumbling under you. The machine features a lithium-ion battery giving 5-6hour working time and a charge time depending on input voltage 110v/230v/415v with the latter being the fastest charge time of 4 hours.

JCB made the headlines this year by launching their Hydrogen combustion engine prototype in the renowned 3CX and more recently into a telehandler as part of a £100m investment into ‘super- efficient’ hydrogen engines. It was with much sadness for the group that the Hydrogen Equipment did not make it to the showcase, but it was for good reason.

Hydrogen as a solution is just not even near ready yet, whilst we all believe the H2 combustion engine is the answer we still need to address:

  • Making green hydrogen on our own shores
  • Making enough green hydrogen to bring cost to an acceptable level
  • Transporting hydrogen / H2 network
  • Storing and dispensing Hydrogen on site

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With Hydrogen discussed in some detail we focussed on the electric offering on display. The increasingly popular 525-60E Loadall, 19c-1E mini excavator, Teletruk, Dumpster, E-tech PowerPack and Scissor lift. Focussing on the 6m telehandler it features a 96v Lithium Ion battery which is claimed to be fit for 5000 charges or 10 years use. Charging from 25% - 80% can be done within 1 hour and a regenerative system provides battery top ups during use. Much of what is under this machine has been sourced from forklift specialist Jungheinrich including the drive motors for the transmission and the motor for the hydraulic pump giving a very reliable, tried and tested running gear.

Within the warm JCB hospitality unit and led by JCB's Natonal account manager for Electric and Alternative fuels we discussed the challenges of getting this equipment out on hire and unanimously agreed that the plant industry has been particularly poor at selling itself and its associated benefits.

For example; Hire companies are often asked to provide a “green” alternative but most customers balk at the price and then revert back to the usual option which is often not challenged by the hire desk or sales person. Contractors and Suppliers MUST educate themselves and each other as to what the benefits are by choosing an alternative. In nearly all cases the alternatives come at an increase in cost but often the savings to be made in the long term (both financial and environmental) are incredible, worthwhile and need to be demonstrated better.  


The topic of Diesel fuel, Drop in Diesel replacements like HVO Green D+ and GTL merits its own separate article so watch this space.

In Summary

Most people left the showcase more educated than they were when they arrived and certainly more inspired. The Balfour Beatty showcase had over 300 children passing through their doors over three weeks, opening children’s eyes to career options beyond the biblical trades is highly commendable. It was clearly apparent that there was a strong and structured organisational team involved in this showcase and they really have done Balfour Beatty, the Plant Industry and Scotland very proud.


On behalf of the attending members of the Scottish Plant Owners Association and of course myself, I give thanks to Alan McCorquodale and Bethany Welsh of Balfour Beatty who made our visit possible and to the BB staff and suppliers who made the entire event possible.

If you were an attendee, I'd like to hear from you about what you thought of the event so please email me here.

Callum Mackintosh - President, Scottish Plant Owners Association (SPOA)

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