When it comes to snow and ice equipment, there’s always something new coming out in the industry. For some, new doesn’t always mean better, but change is inevitable.
That’s the dynamic manufacturers and end users find themselves in for several snow and ice management products, including the emergence of electric-powered spreaders.
"I think the main thing is inertia. People are used to gas,” said Scott Moorman, Director of Engineering for Buyers Products Co., a plow and spreader manufacturer based in Mentor, Ohio. “Because of the early challenges with the use of electric, I feel some people are hesitant."
Some managers have shied from using electric spreaders due the misconception that they lack power. Although a gas motor holds more horsepower than electric (10.5 hp vs. 3/4 hp), Moorman believes electric is much more effective.
“People see that and think ‘How does that even work?’” Moorman said. “With the electric, you get full torque at zero speed. In a gas engine, you can’t do that. With the electric, you get all the torque all the time, so it’s much more efficient for what you’re doing.”
Moorman ceded that gas spreaders don’t need to use a truck battery but with a properly maintained vehicle, an electric device won’t have trouble with a charging system.
“The nice thing is that it only draws a current when it needs it.” he said. “If you’re just spreading under normal conditions, you might be pulling 30-40 amps. If you’re cruising down the street with your spreader between jobs, you aren’t pulling any power at all.”
Opting for an electric spreader could provide a savings on fuel costs and offer less noise pollution if working with residential accounts. Plus, the technology is constantly advancing with manufacturers moving toward wireless operation.
Generally, the industry is catching up to the prospect of dealing in electric.
“You see this learning curve. It has been painful and there have been lessons learned. You’re talking about a lot of high-current DC controllers, not an off the shelf thing,” Moorman said. “Everyone worked with their vendors, and we stumbled along until the controllers were whipped into shape to get a pretty mature product now.”
Despite its simple “plug and go” advantages, the electric spreader does not spell the end of the gas spreader; but Moorman said the writing is on the wall.
“It’s asked every year. ‘Is this the end of gas spreaders?’ I don’t know if it ever will be,” Moorman said. “Some may choose gas as a preference, but the future is electric.”