Vehicle electrification for off-road and heavy duty industrial applications was the topic of discussion at a recent meeting of AEM members, AEM staff and a number of industry representatives.

Held at the Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research on the University of Nebraska campus, the meeting was hosted by Dr. Jerry Hudgins, professor and chair, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (UNL). The goals of the meeting were to:

  • Discus technical barriers as defined by industry, needs, and future direction regarding the electrification of off-road and heavy duty applications
  • Explain/show existing UNL expertise and infrastructure to meeting participants
  • Forge new relationships and enhance existing relationships
  • Discuss specific UNL program information that may offer opportunities for collaborative work

Industry presentations provided insight into the opportunities and challenges of electrification of various equipment functions. The presentations crossed sector lines and included discussions concerning both automotive applications and all five AEM sector applications: agriculture, construction, forestry, mining and utility. They also provided very compelling arguments concerning the benefits of using electric power for specific functions.

Common themes expressed during the industry presentations included:

  • Overall product efficiencies
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Environmental impact
  • Operator safety and comfort
  • End of life/circular economy
  • Energy density

Additionally, practical considerations were discussed such as:

  • Workforce training
  • Telematics
  • Global applications
  • Machine automation
  • “Machine swarms”

A tour of the UNL Electric Power Transmission Laboratories highlighted the capabilities of the university to work collaboratively with industry in the use of electric power as an alternative to mechanical or hydraulic functions for mobile equipment. Explanations of some cutting edge work being done and its future impact on commercial products were also provided. 

The second-day sessions included a tour of the National Tractor Test Laboratory (NTTL), where internationally recognized tractor performance testing is performed, and the agricultural robotics labs where advanced system development is taking place that has great potential to change the future of production agriculture. 

For more information, contact Michael Pankonin, AEM senior director, technical and safety services (, tel: 414-298-4128).