Oops, I did it again. I found a cool electric vehicle online while browsing China’s largest shopping platform, and I had to get one. The only problem is I somehow ended up with a container full of them this time. This is the story of how a pile of awesome electric construction equipment ended up in my yard.
Earlier this year I was cruising through Alibaba looking at all the electric construction equipment. My parents have a small ranch in Florida and we were looking for some type of tractor or loader for some general around the property use.
If you know me, you’ll know I’m pretty big into EVs as work vehicles due to the lower operating cost, near-zero maintenance, and a whole host of other reasons. The biggest problem though is that electric tractors and heavy machinery are extremely expensive.
Machines like Monarch’s electric tractor are priced at nearly US $100,000. There are cheaper alternatives like the Solectrac with a front loader for closer to US $35,000, but that’s still more than I was looking to spend for backyard machinery, even if it’s a fairly large 10-acre backyard.
I also decided a wheel loader was a better direction than a pure tractor since we don’t need the crazy torque of a tractor. We aren’t plowing fields, but rather doing more general and diverse heavy-lift jobs. That means the extreme versatility of an articulating wheel loader would be better for us. With a wheel loader, you get something that can function like a tractor for light jobs, but also has a bucket for moving dirt, can work as a forklift, post driller, excavator, etc.
Other diesel-powered loaders of the size I was looking for seem to start at close to US $45,000, with electric models being basically non-existent until you get into the massive machines used by construction companies and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So that’s how I ended up turning to China, as I have in the past to find cool electric vehicles that I can’t find in the West.
I found a couple of interesting machines, one rated for 880 lb (400 kg) of lifting capacity and another larger version rated for 1440 lb (650 kg) of lifting capacity. They were priced at roughly $5k and $8k respectively, though I knew those prices wouldn’t stick. The “real” price on all of these Alibaba machines is always much higher. My Chinese electric mini-truck was advertised at $2,000, but it cost me around $8,000 in total to land it in my driveway. The 400% markup was almost identical on my electric boat, which started at just over $1,000 but ended up costing me closer to $4,000 with all of the shipping, customs, etc.
Ocean freight has come down a bit since I got those, so I was hoping to get out of this for a bit less than 4x the advertised price. But even if not, it would still be much less than the cost of an equivalent machine in the US.
I was starting to fret about deciding between the smaller and larger loaders, since the smaller would probably be sufficient but that big boy was looking mighty enticing. Ultimately, the factory made the decision for me. Unlike the things I’ve bought in the past, they wouldn’t sell a single unit. They only sold by the container. Gulp.
If I wanted one of the kids, I was going to have to take the whole family.
I’ve never imported a full container of weird things before. I’ve always bought my odd Chinese vehicles by the unit. This was going to be a bigger show than I was expecting when I first got into it.
Finally, I decided I would bite the bullet and get a container of them with the hope of just selling the extras. It took some convincing with the wife, but we’ve been together long enough for her to know that twinkle in my eye when she sees it. It’s worked out well enough in the past (most of the time), so what’s one more gamble?
It was quite a gamble, let me tell you. The process took months. Many. Frustrating. Months.
The fun part was spec’ing my machines, of which I set myself up with three smaller units and one big boy, which tightly filled a 20 ft container. I also figured that if I’m already sending a container, I might as well fill up the empty air space with some more goodies. To do that, I added in some accessories like pallet forks, augers, excavator arms, etc.
In for a penny, in for a pound.
From there, it turned into a longer and more drawn-out process than I had expected. The manufacturing time ballooned. The customs paperwork was confusing and seemingly endless. I had to figure out my own logistics for once the container got to the port in Miami. It’s not like you can just ask a friend with a truck to grab your 20,000 lb container. I had to somehow get that big container several hundred miles inland to the family’s ranch.
I also discovered that there was going to be a major unloading problem due to us not having a loading dock on the ranch. There wouldn’t be a way to get the loaders out unless they would be ok with a nearly 5 foot drop driving out the back of a container chassis truck. (They would not.)
Plus, with the amount it would cost me to get a container chassis truck to deliver the container, wait while I unload the machines, then return the container to the port, I could just about buy the whole freaking container myself. And so that’s what I did.
That actually solved the delivery issue since I didn’t have to figure out how to get the machines out of a container sitting so high up on the back of a truck. Instead, I just had the whole container dropped on the property so I could drive them right out the door onto the ground.
And that’s how I did it, though it did require one more added expense of a crane to lower the container down. You can see all the details in the unboxing and testing video I made.
That was unloading day, which happened many long months after I started this whole thing. How many months, exactly? Well, I wrote the original article where I found the machines back in January, and now it’s November. You do the math.
The good news is that the machines were finally here! Unloading wasn’t a cakewalk but went decently well. The machines could have been secured better but were mostly fine. Upon first cracking open the container door, one machine was slightly askew with a tire six inches up the container wall, but it was sitting there happily, at least.
I’m guessing somewhere along the journey, a bump to the container bounced one machine up and the tire caught on the wall. Fortunately it seemed fine and I just wiggled the steering wheel to drop the tire back down.
I drove the machines out and managed to drag the attachments out as well. Once I got the various attachments to the lip of the container with muscle power, I actually used lifting straps and the pallet fork attachment on one of the loaders to carry them out. Each weighs several hundred pounds so it was a good time to have a loader.
My first tests with the machines were on some fresh mulch, and boy, was it fun!
You know how you played with those Tonka trucks in the sandbox as a kid? It’s literally the exact same fun feeling when you have your own life-sized versions, even if they’re mini-machines themselves.
Wielding a third of a cubic yard of mulch over your head with just the slight flick of your wrist is a fun feeling!
Next, I wanted to try out some of the attachments. I started with the digger attachment since an excavator was the next machine on my list that I wanted.
Mini-excavators cost around $15,000-$25,000 for an imported diesel-powered machine. Electric mini-excavators are rare but can run closer to $75,000-$100,000.
If I could turn my electric loader into an electric excavator for less than $2,000, that’d be a huge score! I knew it wouldn’t match the capabilities of a dedicated excavator, but if I could dig a hole several feet deep, I’d call that a success.
The digger attachment mounts in place of the loader’s bucket, and it’s easy to swap on since I made sure to spec the machine with a hydraulic quick hitch to release and mount attachments directly from the cab. You don’t even have to get out of your chair. Well, at least not for the manual tools like the buckets, pallet forks, etc. In the case of the digger, it has a hydraulic feature for curling the digger bucket, so I had to hop out and manually connect the hydraulic lines.
From there, it was time to dig a hole. And by golly, it works! It only has a dig depth of around 3-4 feet (approximately 1 meter), but that’s enough for a lot of tasks like planting trees, digging trenches, etc. It won’t dig down 6-10 feet (2-3 meters) like a larger dedicated excavator, but I’m not digging a basement here.
For most everyday tasks that you’d use a shovel for, you’re probably not digging more than 4 feet deep. And so this is basically a powered shovel that saves a lot of back-breaking labor. It’s going to make planting trees on the property a lot easier from now on, that’s for sure!
Next, I wanted to try the auger. It’s basically a large drill that can be used for putting in fence posts, mailboxes, trees, or other tasks where you’d want to drill a big, deep hole in the world beneath you.
And again, the dang thing worked perfectly. It mounts just like the digger and is hydraulically powered. In less than a minute I had a clean, deep hole that was perfect for a fence post.
The entire process was super quiet, too. In fact, my dad and I used the machines for a pile of tasks, such as propping back up the little roof over our well that blew over in the last hurricane. It’s a few hundred pounds and nearly 10 feet (3 meters) tall, so the larger loader with the forks was great for hoisting it into place.
Carrying other things like telephone poles, tree branches, water cisterns, and just about everything else was suddenly much more convenient.
We could even pair the loaders with my electric mini-truck for our own mini work site.
Man, this is getting more and more like a backyard childhood sandbox.
The charging process is surprisingly similar to an electric bike. They don’t require an electric vehicle charging station, but rather just have their own charging brick. You plug one end into a 110V AC outlet and the other into the loader.
Charging reportedly takes around 6-7 hours from empty, though I avoided running them totally empty since it’s not great for the SLA batteries.
Oh right, the batteries. So I would have loved to have lithium-ion batteries here for the longer lifespan, but there were a couple of downsides.
For one, the huge 9 kWh and 14.4 kWh SLA packs on the smaller and larger machines actually help serve as ballast in the rear, increasing the load rating that each machine can lift. Second, those big packs would have been even more expensive as lithium-ion batteries.
Another advantage of AGM SLA batteries is you can find them from probably a hundred different suppliers in the US. One day when these packs finally crap out, I won’t have to wonder where to get replacements. I can just get any big 12V bricks and string them together. It’s only slightly more complicated (and heavier) than changing a car battery.
As it stands, these things weren’t cheap. With all in for the four loaders, shipping, customs, transportation, and the attachments, I figure I’ve got nearly $50k worth of equipment in that container. Which is why I’m going to have to sell three of those things, even though it’s fun to have what looks like my own construction company with all of these machines hanging around.
Speaking of that though, this whole process has actually led me to realize that there really should be a company in the US for this kind of stuff. Electric mini-construction vehicles like these are so useful for small businesses, hobby farms, wineries, and other users that don’t need a massive Caterpillar backhoe or John Deere machine. For many individuals and small operators, a 5-ton and $100,000 piece of equipment is simply overkill. Smaller machines like these are more useful and more accessible for many folks.
And so that’s what I’m working on now. I’m getting set up to actually offer these things in the US, and be able to support them so people don’t have to take a risk ordering something from halfway around the world before being left out to dry on a machine with no support or warranty. If you want to learn more about it, check out my new site, Nesher Equipment. I’m actually going to start by selling three of these machines, since I never planned on keeping them… and can’t really afford to hang onto four loaders when we only need one for use on our property.
One day, I believe that most construction equipment will be electric. For now, that day still seems pretty far down the road, at least in the US. But maybe I can help some of us get there just a bit sooner.
Would you rather have one $50k EV or 50 of these $1k Chinese electric cars
Panning for gold in Alibaba’s electric vehicle catalog is bound to find some real doozies, such as this week’s Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week. Meet this fun little purple three-wheeled electric car that barely manages to fulfill the requirements of a car.
The “Minitype 3 Seater Passenger Electric Passenger Tricycle” is quite a mouthful of a name, but what’s really important here are the specs.
With a single driver’s seat up front and a narrow bench in back, there is theoretically space for three souls aboard this thing. There’s no steering wheel up front, though. Instead, drivers operate the handlebar that controls the front wheel through a fork instead of traditional automotive linkage to two wheels. Think of it like an enclosed tuk-tuk.
That’s probably fine based on the rather low performance of the machine, reaching just 40 km/h (25 mph) and likely taking its sweet time to do so.
It may not seem spacious, but this is one of those “the seats go aaaalllllllllll the way back” kind of cars. Or at least, the one seat.
I’m not sure what kind of freedom or bonus points that buys you, unless your date is super into trikes. But let’s just say that the car is doing everything it can to be a good wingman for you.
If you can’t pick up chicks in this babe magnet, then you’re obviously doing something wrong.
The coolest part about this thing though is the price. Sure, if you try to buy just a single car then it’s a bit expensive at US $1,200. But if you’ll take 15 units then you can knock that price down to $1,100. An order of up to 49 gets you down to an even $1,000.
So which would you rather have? One $50k electric car or 50 $1k electric cars? Well let me answer that for myself with another question. How easy is it to start a Chinese EV racing league in your backyard track with just one $50k EV?
Ok, jokes aside, please don’t anyone try to actually order one of these. This glorified mobility scooter is likely sans batteries for that price, plus you’ll absolutely spend several times the supposed purchase price just to try and get it shipped out of China.
Then there’s the wrinkle of these not being street-legal anywhere outside of China, and potentially not even there.
So let’s just enjoy them from the safe distance of our computer screens, shall we? In the meantime, I’ll appreciate even more the electric mini-truck I actually DID buy from China.
GE scraps plans to make giant 18 MW offshore wind turbines
GE Vernova is abandoning plans to supersize its offshore wind turbines and will instead focus on rolling out smaller “workhorse” turbines.
In March of last year, GE Vernova CEO Scott Strazik said during a GE Investor Conference that the market was receptive to larger variants of the company’s Haliade-X offshore wind turbines: “Now we are getting a very positive reception from the market with our 17 to 18 MW Haliade-X variant off of what we’re shipping this year.”
However, GE Vernova has decided to shelve that idea for the future. Parent company GE writes in its US Securities and Exchange Commission EX-99 that its Haliade-X platform has included “offerings available from 12 MW to 18 MW with estimated capacity factors ranging from 60% to 64%.” It continued:
One Haliade-X 13 MW turbine can power the equivalent of up to 16,000 European homes.
…We believe the future of our offshore wind business will be the Haliade-X 15.5 MW-250, a workhorse product.
The company made project losses in its offshore wind business last year. It expects margins to remain challenged in 2024 as it executes its Haliade-X backlog, “which will require significant cash use and working capital.” However, GE anticipates working capital dynamics and margins to improve beyond 2024.
The 800 MW Vineyard Wind I project off the Massachusetts coast consists of GE’s 13 MW Haliade-X turbines.
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Jeep’s first EV will land in the US as early as July, electric Wrangler-like Recon to follow
The first all-electric Jeep could be delivered to US customers as soon as July. According to new CEO Antonio Filosa, production of Jeep’s first EV, the Wagoneer S SUV, is expected to begin in Q2. Deliveries could happen as soon as the third quarter. Jeep’s CEO also confirmed we may see the electric Wrangler-like Recon launch by the end of the year.
The first Jeep EV could reach US buyers as early as Q3
After slashing prices amid slumping sales Friday (including up to $4K on its best-selling Grand Cherokee), Filosa admitted more needs to be done to fend off incoming competition.
Jeep’s first EV in the US, the Wagoneer S SUV, is expected to enter production in the second quarter. Filosa said the first deliveries could happen as early as the third quarter. Ahead of its official launch, Jeep is hyping the electric SUV with new teasers.
You can see Jeep’s iconic design evolving as it shifts to electric. Jeep claims the Wagoneer S will be “lightning fast,” packing 600 hp for a 0 to 60 mph sprint in 3.5 seconds.
It will be the first EV based on parent company Stellantis’ new STLA Large platform. Jeep aims for around 400 miles range, rivaling Rivian’s R1S.
Jeep also showed the first glimpse of the EV’s interior, which has plenty of buttons and digital screens. You can see a custom driver control center with Jeep’s signature Selec-Terrain toggle.
It also includes a standard dual-pane panoramic sunroof and a premium 19-speaker McIntosh audio system.
Jeep’s electric Wrangler-like Recon launching soon
Filsosa confirmed Jeep’s electric Wrangler-like Recon could launch by the end of the year, although the timing is still unclear.
We’ve already seen a sneak peek of the Recon Moab 4xe after images leaked out of a dealer event in Las Vegas.
The Recon will be a “rugged and fully capable electric SUV” inspired by the off-road Jeep Wrangler. Previous head of Jeep North America, Jim Morrison, said the Recon EV “has the capability to cross the mighty Rubicon Trail.” Not only that, it will “reach the end of the trail with enough range to drive back to town and recharge,” Morrison claimed.
Filosa confirmed the Recon will also be based on the STLA Large platform, suggesting at least 600 hp is likely.
The platform serves between 85 and 118 kWh battery pack options with up to 500 mi (800 km) range for sedans. It will also come with 400V and 800V options.
Stellantis claims the platform includes “extreme power,” claiming it will “outperform any of the existing Hellcat V-8s.” More powerful models can sprint from 0 to 62 mph (0-100km/hr) in the 2-second range, according to Stellantis.
According to the new UAW agreements, an electric Jeep Wrangler is also expected to launch, but not until 2028. Jeep’s best-selling Grand Cherokee will also get an all-electric option around 2027.
Source: Detroit News
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