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Accelerating Transition to More Sustainable Future With Battery Powered B-Air Compressor

Mon December 18, 2023 - National Edition
Atlas Copco

Road construction works with the B-Air 185-12. (Atlas Copco photo)
Road construction works with the B-Air 185-12. (Atlas Copco photo)

The launch of the world's first battery-driven portable screw compressor, the B-Air 185-12, marks a defining moment in the market's transformation towards a low carbon future. So said Maarten Vermeiren, product marketing manager sustainability and digitalization at Atlas Copco, Portable Air Division.

A significant proportion of applications for Atlas Copco's products are in locations without easy access to electricity. As a result, diesel-power has long reigned king of the portable compressor market. But, due to societal changes, technological advances and the launch of the battery-powered B-Air — which just so happens to be a world first — that dominance is being challenged.

Atlas Copco is no stranger to firsts. Its talented team of engineers has been pioneering new technologies and innovations for 150 years, aligning product development with the changing needs of society. And what society needs now, as it continues to sink deeper into a climate emergency and energy crisis, is to decarbonize. And fast.

To help accelerate the journey towards a low-carbon future, Atlas Copco has committed to a range of science-based targets, including to reduce the lifetime emissions of its products by 28 percent by 2030. Making its internal combustion engines more efficient and adopting biodiesels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) has cut its emissions drastically within the last decade.

But the key to achieving the transformation it seeks demands the long-term substitution of diesel power, entirely. The obvious solution to this challenge is to switch to electrification, powered by renewables, the company said.

In 2018 Atlas Copco released the E-Air VSD range of plug-in electric portable air compressors, which have subsequently proven to be extremely popular. Yet as successful as it is, it is constrained by its need for a constant external supply of electricity. The self-sufficient, battery powered B-Air is therefore a logical evolution of the genre.

Battery energy storage presents the ideal solution to provide a combination of sustainability and autonomy. The B-Air runs on electricity supplied by its battery, with its 57kWh internal battery capacity removing the need for fuel or a continuous external electricity supply.

Cable-free when in use and compact in design, it offers portability and productivity to those working on sites where access to electricity is restricted. This marks a significant shift for the industry, as for the first time in history it offers a viable battery alternative to applications such as road construction, fibre optic cable blowing and crash barrier work, while providing users with the same functionality that is availability with a diesel compressor.

The Potential of Battery Technology

Battery technology has undergone a transformation in recent years, offering new non-ICE product opportunities and becoming an enabler of a more sustainable way of working across mulitple industries. Lithium-ion batteries, in particular, have become the heart of countless portable devices and vehicles. And now also in one of Atlas Copco's portable screw compressors.

One of the primary ways this innovation can accelerate the transition to a more sustainable future is by reducing harmful emissions and noise pollution, the manufacturer said.

Even the most advanced gasoline or diesel-powered compressors still emit noxious fumes, contributing to air pollution and climate change. Battery-powered compressors, on the other hand, operate silently and produce no local emissions, making them ideal for indoor locations, environmentally sensitive areas and urban job sites.

And all this with no compromise on performance. On the contrary, it even offers new possibilities, for example for indoor applications where diesel alternatives are no option due to their emissions.

Battery technology brings another significant advantage to the portable compressor industry that is also available with the electric driven units with cord: energy efficiency.

Battery-powered compressors are designed to maximize energy utilization, resulting in lower operating costs and a reduced carbon footprint. Their efficient energy management systems help conserve power while delivering high-performance output, ensuring long-term savings for both businesses and the environment.

The Big Shift

Every day marks an incremental shift away from the industry's deeply ingrained convention of diesel dependency and towards a low-carbon future. Due to the plug-in electric E-Air's popularity, mobile compressors have been an early success story of this energy transformation. Eventually, Atlas Copco aims to offer a diesel alternative to every user and every application, and the battery powered B-Air takes an important step towards that goal.

As the market leader in portable compressed air solutions, Atlas Copco understands its responsibility to play a leading role in helping the industry decarbonize. Turning the tide on climate change requires an industry-wide effort to transition away from diesel in place of renewable alternatives. It also depends on an acceptance of new ways of working, an openness to new technology and leadership to show the way to others.

In the words of author Richelle E. Goodrich: "The direction you choose to face determines whether you're standing at the end or the beginning of the road."

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