The electric revolution LiuGong 856HE

We have seen numerous examples of heavy equipment manufacturers offering sub-two tonne mini excavators or compact wheeled loaders powered by batteries. These smaller machines are viewed as an ideal step by many into delivering emission free operating. When it comes to larger machinery, the choice diminishes massively.  Although many manufacturers have shown prototype examples, very few are offering truly emission free machinery over 10 tonnes. One of the first companies to break this trend is LiuGong with their revolutionary 856HE battery powered wheeled loader.

With an operating weight of just over 21 tonnes, the 856HE is the largest production battery powered machine available and takes its power from a huge powerpack situated where the engine would be on a traditional machine. The 856HE comes with 423kW from their LFP battery pack. This power output far exceeds that of a diesel machine of a similar size and capacity giving the Liugong an exceptional power to weight ratio. 

For the casual observer, apart from the bright green paintwork, the LiuGong looks very similar to almost any other loader on the market, and really, it is as the main difference lies hidden away. The only noticeable difference to that of a standard machine is the added length at the back of the machine. Just a few millimetres have been added to allow the additional size of the powerpack to be fitted. Having the additional length of 177mm over the rear axle has also benefitted with weight distribution, increasing the full turn tipping load by over 1500kg.  It also acts as a counterbalance to the load up front increasing the payload by 22% and means the traditional heavy cast counterweight associated with this type of machine can now be reduced in size and weight.  The sloping, electrically lifting bonnet opens to reveal the battery pack and its cooling fan which is situated to the rear. Ground level access to the charging port allows the operator to plug in and charge when required with the manufacturer claiming a 90-minute charge time from a 300kW charger (when using 2 Guns (150kW each). Distributing that power around the machine is performed by a pair of 160kW (215 hP) IP67 rated motors.  One each for the drive system and hydraulic system. Like many electric vehicles, there is no complicated transmission on the 856HE. Instead, a simple powershift transmission with 2 forward and 1 reverse gear propels the machine around site. Unlike electric cars which can creep up on the unwary, the natural whine from the LiuGong’s hydraulic system lets you know it’s about!

Moving to the front of the loader, a set of Z-bar loader arms can carry a variety of buckets from 2.7 to 5.6m3 with the standard general-purpose capacity sitting at 3.5m3. Breakout force at the bucket is an impressive 162kN which compete with a dump height of 2977mm putting the machine firmly within the pack of leading manufacturers matching them almost blow for blow. An automatic return to dig function and remote auto greasing makes life a little easier for the operator.

The climb into the operator’s cabin reveals what seems to be a standard wheeled loader cabin. Spacious and with plenty of glass, the finish of the cab is to a high standard with a decent black plastic forming the internal panels. A fully adjustable steering column and air suspended seat allows the operator to tweak everything to suit their operating style. The right-hand side of the cab contains all the switchgear distributed between the B pillar and dashboard. A simple and straightforward multi-function joystick provides the loader function with switches to change the machine’s direction. LiuGong’s touchscreen is mounted low to the right-hand side with the first model having a weigh loader screen and printer mounted above it. This particular machine has been equipped with a 360-degree camera system and can have an optional factory fitted Radar system fitted. Low energy LED lighting illuminates the work zone when required. 

The first machine in the UK has been snapped up by one of the UK’s leading suppliers of aggregates, building materials and ready mixed concrete, Aggregate Industries. The company has deployed the loader at their huge concrete batching plant at Bow in East London where it works alongside one of the firm’s fully electric mixer trucks. “As a company, our road to Net Zero emissions started in 2023,” comments Luke Olly, Aggregate Industries’ Decarbonisation Manager. “We are aiming to reach Net Zero by 2050 and had initially pushed to change fuel types as a starting point. We thought advancements in alternative drive technology within large construction machinery was a few more years behind and decided that looking at alternative fuel sources was the only way forward. That was until we realised that Liugong were in advanced development of the 856HE, and it instantly became apparent that there was a possibility that we were able to take another step forward in reducing the company’s carbon emissions.”

“We can work 24 hours a day, 5 days a week so we need a good and reliable shovel to handle our material,” Plant Manager Carl Kingston adds. “We can produce up to 1500m3 per day at full speed and this requires material to be fed into the bins constantly. In the loader’s first few weeks of operation, it’s been on 11-hour nights and has been very productive, managing the entire shift on a single charge. We are currently producing around 900m3 per day, so well within our capacity and that of the new loader too.”

Oliver Keates is LiuGong’s Wheeled Loader Product Manager, and he is rightly proud of the new machine: “To be the first manufacturer to offer full scale production models of a zero-emission wheeled loader is a great honour and goes to show the speed the company can design, test and produce new models. Having such a prominent operator such as Aggregate Industries to take on this New to Europe product is amazing, as well as for customers wishing to reduce their carbon footprint.  This proves that LiuGong is a leading manufacturer in Battery Electric Vehicle design and production.”