Loading the Future
In India’s ever-evolving construction equipment sector, the wheel loader stands as an indispensable workhorse, pivotal in material handling and construction activities across various industries. Over the past decade, advancements in technology have propelled the wheel loader market forward, with a notable recent trend being the introduction and adoption of electric wheel loaders.

Traditionally, wheel loaders have been powered by diesel engines, prized for their torque and reliability. However, environmental concerns and the push towards sustainable development have spurred innovation in the sector. This has led to a shift towards electric-powered wheel loaders, which offer significant advantages in terms of reduced emissions, quieter operation, and potentially lower operational costs over their lifecycle.

Recent innovations in wheel loader technology have been transformative. Electric wheel loaders, powered by advanced lithium-ion battery packs, are at the forefront of this revolution. These machines not only meet stringent emission norms but also appeal to construction companies aiming to enhance their environmental credentials. Moreover, electric loaders offer smoother operation, instant torque delivery, and reduced maintenance compared to their diesel counterparts.

In addition to their environmental benefits, electric wheel loaders incorporate cutting-edge features such as telematics systems for remote monitoring, integrated GPS for precision control, and advanced safety sensors. These technologies not only improve operational efficiency but also enhance safety and productivity on construction sites.

Innovations galore
The wheel loader market is dominated by 120-150 HP range equipment, which accounts to 62 per cent of total wheel loader equipment sales in India. This machine finds applications in mining, construction, ports and industry. With the growing demand from various segments, the wheel loaders are being introduced into the market with advanced technologies that guarantees higher productivity, efficiency and safety.

The launch of electric wheel loaders by several leading manufacturers marks a significant milestone in India’s construction equipment market. Companies like Volvo CE India, JCB and others have introduced models tailored to meet the specific demands of Indian construction projects. These loaders promise to deliver on both performance and sustainability, catering to the diverse needs of contractors and project managers nationwide.

During Bauma in India, SDLG India, a Member of the Volvo Group, showcased the SDLG Electric Wheel Loader L956HEV for the Indian market. It comes powered with shock absorption technology, prolonging the life of lithium-ion batteries even is the most-harsh applications. L956HEV electric wheel loader is a revolutionary powerhouse combines cutting-edge electric technology with SDLG’s renowned reliability. It offers powerful performance while significantly reducing emissions and operating costs.

Surat Mehta, Head of SDLG Business in India, said, “SDLG machines have captivated customers across India in the quarrying, mining, roads, railway siding, and port segments. They are ecstatic about the profitability they can extract from SDLG machines, as well as their ease of adaptability to a wide range of applications.”

Recently SDLG inaugurated its new manufacturing facility for wheel loaders in Peenya, Bengaluru. This marks a significant milestone in its efforts to enhance localised manufacturing capabilities, introduce innovative products, and expand its customer base across India. The state-of-the-art facility is equipped with advanced technology and has the capacity to produce 1,000 machines annually per shift.

Speaking on the electric wheel loader launch, Mehta said, “The battery-operated electric wheel loader was launched during Bauma Conexpo 2023 in India. This innovation not only enhances operational efficiency but also reduces carbon footprints, aligning with our commitment to sustainability. To facilitate the adoption of this new technology, we offer equipment-as-a-service, allowing customers to pay based on usage. Currently, around twenty SDLG loaders operate under this arrangement.”

Adds Mehta, “The facility carries significant emotional value as a “Make in India” product, resonating with the sentiments of Indian consumers. Moreover, local manufacturing allows us to deliver machines to customers more efficiently, reducing lead times associated with imports. Additionally, the facility creates direct and indirect employment opportunities, contributing to local economic growth. Our aim is not limited to wheel loaders; we aspire to expand our locally manufactured product range and become a comprehensive supplier of SDLG equipment.”

“While we currently operate at a capacity of around 500 units annually, we plan to ramp up production to 1,000 units per shift, with the potential for further expansion. Our focus extends beyond wheel loaders to include other products like excavators. We ultimately aim to achieve a factory utilisation rate of 70 to 80 per cent, reflecting our commitment to localised manufacturing and product innovation,” added Mehta.

Similary, JCB introduced its first full electric wheeled loader, delivering best-in-class performance and full working day use, with low noise and zero-emission operation for customers. The machine boasts the largest standard battery pack in its class, with a 20kWh capacity, with productivity matching the popular 403 diesel model.

The machine is powered by a 20kWh lithium-ion battery pack, assembled from proven JCB modules, as pioneered in the company’s existing range of electric equipment. These batteries, coupled with high efficiency electric motors and optimised traction and hydraulic systems, deliver class-leading performance, with the loader capable of completing a full working day, or four to five hours of continuous use in a mixed duty cycle.

In common with the JCB E-Tech range, the 403E has a built-in charger that allows connection to a range of on-site power sources. A 110V socket will fully charge the batteries in 12 hours, while a 230V industrial or domestic plug will charge the battery pack in just 8 hours. JCB’s off-board rapid charger can also be used with the 403E, delivering a full charge from a three-phase supply in just two hours.

Caterpillar India’s Hindustan 2021E continues to be the best-selling wheel loader model in India. Hindustan 2021E comes with significant enhancements to the engine and engine system to comply with new CEV IV emission requirements such as the engine control module and efficient exhaust after-treatment system. The machine is powered by a powerful yet highly fuel-efficient 133HP gross power six-cylinder turbocharged engine. The standard machine comes with a spacious cabin, comfortable and adjustable seat with ergonomically placed consoles and pilot operating joystick levers for fatigue-free operation with an optional AC. Product Link (Telematics) a standard feature, wirelessly connects customers to their equipment giving them valuable insights such as location, and hours worked providing the ability to track the machines remotely.

“We are committed to understanding the evolving needs of our customers and delivering pioneering products and services with a focus on technology-enabled solutions and aftermarket to increase customer loyalty. Our wheel loaders are designed to handle all the jobs on the worksite. The machine is fine-tuned with the right technologies for the right applications which results in lower operating costs, higher performance, and improved reliability across a variety of applications. The machine is built with linkage options and an extensive range of work tools and bucket styles is available to customise these machines for customer’s operation,” said Amit Bansal, Director, Sales & Marketing, Building Constructions Products (BCP) Division, Caterpillar India.

Another leading player, Liugong recently introduced electric wheel loaders viz. 820TE & 856HE in 2 tonne and 5.8 tonne payload capacity segment. The recently launched models are battery operated. While 820TE is best suitable for RMC and batching plants 856HE is working in ports, cement plants and mining.

Nischal Mehrotra, Sr. Vice President (Sales & Marketing), LiuGong India, said “As of 2024, the wheel loader market in India is valued at approximately $1.1 billion. This figure reflects the industry’s substantial growth, driven by various factors including significant infrastructure investments, revival in the mining sector, and expanding construction activities. Wheel loaders are versatile machines used across various sectors, and their demand and application trends vary depending on the specific requirements of each industry.”

BEML with its state of art R&D facility has indigenously developed and manufactured following three variants of wheel loaders – BL200-1, BL30-1 and BL40. BEML is developing the above range of wheel loaders with CEV stage IV compliant engines, which are in line with the government’s directive on implementation of new emission norms for wheeled construction equipment from April 2021.

Road ahead
The wheel loader market in India is witnessing a transformative shift with the advent of electric-powered models. These innovative machines not only address environmental concerns but also promise enhanced operational efficiency and reduced lifecycle costs. As construction practices evolve and sustainability takes center stage, electric wheel loaders are set to redefine the industry landscape, contributing to a cleaner, more efficient future for India’s construction sector.

The journey towards electrification in the wheel loader market is not just a technological advancement but a commitment towards a greener and more sustainable construction industry in India.

  • There is a growing demand for electric wheel loaders in India driven by environmental concerns and government initiatives promoting cleaner technologies.
  • The market for electric wheel loaders in India faces challenges related to infrastructure, particularly the availability of charging stations.