In what may be a world-first, construction crews have airlifted an electric compact excavator to the summit of The Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps to work on a new summit station and cable car at the famous ski resort.
Contractors specified Volvo’s 2,700kg, ECR25 Electric excavator because diesel machines have trouble starting at high altitudes. The summit is 2,970m above sea level.
Volvo said electric excavators have no trouble starting in cold, thin air, while diesel ones can take up to an hour to start.
The machine is being used on a €102m project to build a new summit station and to replace one of the longest and steepest cable car routes in the world, climbing from the village of Stechelberg.
The cable car became famous thanks to its role in the 1968 James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”.
Construction firm Ghelma AG Baubetriebe is responsible for excavation and foundation work for the new summit station.
“There are two main problems up on the mountains,” said site manager Melchior Burlon. “On the one hand, we don’t have much space here, and on the other hand we often encounter problems with diesel engines operating at altitude owing to the thin air and the cold.”
“Volvo CE is the only supplier that offers something of this magnitude,” Burlon added. “Otherwise, there were only excavators up to two tons and we wanted the most powerful machine for the job – and something that we could still transport via helicopter if necessary.”
Off to a flying start
The ECR25 Electric was delivered to the resort by local dealer, Robert Aebi AG.
Ongoing work on the railway meant the excavator had to be towed up at night piece-by-piece to the station at Birg, which sits at an altitude of 2,600m.
The machine was then airlifted by helicopter to the summit.
Using an electric excavator does away with the need to transport diesel up the mountain. It is charged with the Schilthorn cable car’s power supply, which comes from hydropower generated in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.