Trending Content

Electric equipment’s myths, risks and unknowns

By Brock Huffstutler

October 31, 2023

As electrification becomes more commonplace in equipment rental fleets, so do certain myths along with emerging risks and uncertainties surrounding battery-powered equipment. Here are some examples of each and how some in the industry are reacting to them:

Myth: Elevated fire hazards. “There is some hand wringing around electric equipment creating more battery fires,” says Josh Nickell, ECP-SM/MI, American Rental Association (ARA) vice president, equipment segment. “Those are terrible, do not get me wrong, but we point out every single battery fire that we see of an electric vehicle or an electrified piece of equipment. Do you know how often fuel combustion vehicles and equipment catch on fire? They are combustion engines. Tiny explosions are how they create power. Combustion equipment also suffers from issues with fire, but we just don’t talk about it anymore. So, those aren’t new issues, really.”

Emerging risk: Battery loss and theft. Eddie Wilson, general manager, City Rentals, Ontario, Calif., says, “In rental, you’ll have a customer that is working on a large job site and there are several different companies out there. With battery powered becoming more prominent, you’ve got trucks loaded with batteries, whether it’s Milwaukee, DeWalt, Makita. People are swiping batteries off trucks and they’re swapping batteries. They could have had a Makita drill for years, and if someone has a similar battery to ours, they may try to drop theirs in and switch it. Or, unknowingly, they could swap them. We inscribe all our batteries. It’s a little bit more of a tedious process, but we train our customers and counter personnel to thoroughly check batteries, so they see, ‘These are our batteries, make sure we get them back.’”

Uncertainty: Battery disposal. “I see the benefit of [transitioning to electric equipment], and I understand why we are doing what we’re doing. The blueprints might be rough at first. We need to figure out whether we’re recycling these batteries at their end of life or are they just planning on piling everything in the desert to rot in a big battery graveyard?” Wilson asks.

Sam Castillo, senior account manager at Tates Rents, Boise, Idaho, has similar questions about batteries used in electric equipment. “Battery-powered technology is more common and field tested, but the biggest concern I have heard is related to the safe disposal of these units after their long-term use,” he says.