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Less noise, reduced emissions: national grid testing electric backhoe in Boston

If you passed by one National Grid work site in Dorchester Tuesday, you’d see the usual mess but hear a lot less noise.

There’s no rumble of a diesel engine because the backhoe being used at the site is electric.

“It has a battery pack, which is the fuel tank. It has an electric motor, directly underneath it,” said Jon Williams, CEO of Viridi Parente, which manufactures the backhoe. “The difference is that pack and engine have one moving part, the diesel engine has 3,000 parts.”

National Grid is leasing the equipment as part of a program testing the next generation of equipment.

“Our goal right now as stated earlier is to electrify 100% of our light-duty vehicles by 2030,” said Kerry Martin, of National Grid. “Construction equipment isn’t part of our 2030 goals right now but when we see opportunities like this to be at the forefront of sustainability, we will partner with anyone making a change.”

The electric backhoe is expected to cost about twice as much as a new diesel backhoe, but Viridi Parente said the cost of charging the battery is a fraction of what it costs to fill a fuel tank.

For now, National Grid is testing the equipment but not sending it out on any emergency situations or jobs that could last longer than eight hours — that’s the current lifespan of the battery.

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