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A century ago, General Motors built a car assembly plant on Delavan Avenue in Buffalo to build Chevys. The former American Axle plant now builds battery-powered construction equipment — and business is so good, manufacturing is being expanded.
The plant is now Viridi Parente, part of John Williams’ growing local business empire. Williams is best known for demolition work by his Ontario Specialty Contracting and building the Medaille College sports complex in South Buffalo. He’s also redeveloping the old Tonawanda Coke complex in the Town of Tonawanda.
Now his Green Machines are changing the face of construction sites by running them on batteries.
“Green Machine is the largest OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) for electrified construction equipment in North America, maybe the world,” Williams said. “We have 250 machines in the field, running every day. And based on what I know of the market, that’s more than anybody else in the industry. But 250 is basically a small test sample.”
For this technology to get to scale, he said 250 has to be 25,000 or 50,000 units.
“So that’s the step we’re heading for. I think the next iteration is by the end of 2022. We should have somewhere around 1,000 machines in the field and then by the end of ’23, that should be in the 5,000-10,000 range.,” he said.
Williams said National Grid has up to 40 of the machines in use every day and the company is moving into those large storage batteries more and more people are using, both for protection if the grid goes down and to store electricity generated by solar panels or windmills — and more.
“We build pack systems that allow you to have stored electricity for portable uses and construction equipment is one of those applications,” he said. “But there are are a lot of other applications. There’s point of view storage. There’s traffic light backups. There’s low-speed, last-mile delivery vehicles.”
Williams has already done major renovation and rental work on Delavan Avenue, as the plant is also used for an array of his other activities. Of the 850,000 square feet, 70,000 is being renovated to add to the 120,000 needed to build Green Machines and the battery packs, with 70 workers. He said by the end of next year, that workforce total will double.