Greg Rents, an Oak View Calif., rental company, recently added a Volvo ECR 25 electric excavator to its growing fleet.
This marked the first sale of an electric mini-excavator sold to an independent rental company in California and was the first retail unit sold by Volvo Construction Equipment & Services (VCES).
“I bought the electric vehicle to cater to municipalities and homeowners in the Ojai Valley that have ordinances for no gas-powered equipment,” said Greg Webster, a 6th generation Ventura County businessman and owner of Greg Rents.
Webster received the unit at the start of the slow season — the end of September — and with the rain that California has received over the past few months, it’s been a slow start for renting it out. He did have a masonry contractor use it to build a footing for a large block wall.
Everyone was “buzzing about it,” according to Webster. “The contractor loved it, but struggled a little bit plugging it in, mostly because people weren’t following proper procedure.”
To combat this, Webster is putting a QR code on his machines that will take people to his YouTube channel and “will walk customers through the proper way to do it. This will save people a ton of time. So, at the end of the day, they can pull up the video and find out quickly what they need to do to properly charge the vehicle,” Webster said.
This was the first piece of equipment purchased from VCES, but it has opened the door to much more business. Webster “appreciates the relationship that he has developed with Ed Galindo, e-mobility product manager, and believes that VCES is a leader in the industry because it has a dedicated e-mobility product manager.
Galindo is seeing “more electric machines that have sold that are going to independent rental companies like Greg Rents, or to a contractor that does a lot of housing development, and to municipalities where there are sustainability measures and noise levels that they must meet. Electric meets those measures.”
Galindo also stressed the importance of “qualifying the customer and the job, making sure that it will meet their requirements on the job.”
Galindo outlined the benefits of electric which include, “it’s environmentally friendly: The Volvo electric compact excavator is emission-free and produces no exhaust fumes and provides enough power to run for a full day, reduced noise pollution, which makes it great for urban areas, lower operating costs due to no fuel or emissions related expenses and the electric motor provides instant torque, resulting in better performance than traditional diesel engines.”
The feedback that Galindo has received is positive.
“Customers are saying that you get a full workday out of it, because when you factor in idle time on a job site, it can be 40 percent to 60 percent of the time on a mini excavator,” Galindo said.
“Others that are using it non stop need to use a different apparatus or bring in two units,” he added. “The biggest positive is zero emissions, the safety aspect of no diesel engine noise and vibration, so you can communicate with the people around you on the job site — its quieter, you can hear them and they can hear you.”
Galindo knows that there is always “pushback, diesel is going to run longer, it’s only going to take 10 minutes to fill the tank and I’m back to finishing up the job.”
He also admits that there is a high upfront cost.
“The initial cost of the Volvo electric compact excavator is higher than that of traditional diesel-powered excavators,” he said. “But when you factor in your maintenance cost, your fuel costs, things of that nature, that starts to close the gap quickly. But there also are some funding opportunities for that right now. The inflation reduction act of 2023 that came in — I believe it is $7,500 for zero emissions or EV equipment and this falls under that category.
“The complete warranty is six years and is broken down by two-year, bumper-to-bumper, two-year, 2,000 hours, an additional four-year, 3,000 hours gets you six-year, 5,000 hours in the sixth year is on major components like batteries, pumps and things of that nature. And it still has a lifetime frame warranty just like the diesel version has,” added Galindo.
Another aspect of “pushback” is that it will have limited power output. Customers that haven’t tried it may believe that the electric motor may not provide as much power as a traditional diesel engine. To disprove this theory, Webster organized a competition, or a “Pepsi Challenge” of sorts, as he named it.
Webster invited Eric Brown, a 25-year local 12 union equipment operator, to compete with Webster in electric vs. diesel competition. Each operator was to dig a trench 10-ft. deep by 10-ft. long. They ran the contest twice with Brown operating each vehicle. Brown won the contest in either vehicle he was in, which to Webster, Brown and Galindo, meant that there is no sacrifice in power.
Brown was impressed with the electric machine.
“It swings and moves faster than the diesel version,” he said. “It has as much digging power and it has more breakout power. I think it is due to the electric motor vs. the diesel engine.”
Webster added, “this is spoken from a guy that operates professionally every day.”
Webster is excited about the machine and said it has “more breakout power, the turning speed was faster, the lifting was faster and that it was quicker overall. I think it was because of the lithium batteries. Even though it has a shorter run time, it’s more powerful because of those batteries. Its either on or off. You don’t have the torque of the diesel.”
Galindo appreciates that, “Greg took a bold step and he sees what the future brings. He needs to have the equipment to supply that and this just adds to what he already has. He was the first one to have it.”
Greg Rents currently has 12 employees, including Webster and, besides the equipment rental, he also sells bulk material, which is located directly behind his building and has two truck and transport vehicles.
His biggest customers are homeowners within a 5- to 10-mi. radius from his location. Webster asserts that “the majority of my business has always been homeowners; I’m just starting to make inroads with contractors.” And he believes that, “if you help the customer out, the money will come.” Webster’s generosity shows in the ways he has served and donated his time and money to his community.
The original business, a construction equipment company, was owned by Webster’s father. It was a family business in which Webster grew up a part of. When he began running the business, he switched it from a company that was buying and selling equipment to a company buying new equipment and renting.
“I struggled initially, but once the full switch was done, I realized I was on to something,” Webster said. “I focused primarily on renting this new equipment, knowing I could help out homeowners, contractors and landscapers.”
In 2018, Webster changed the name to Greg Rents.
Webster was the honorary mayor at age 28. He has organized Christmas tree lightings, easter egg hunts and parades. He “thrives on being a part of the bigger community projects, installing the sidewalk in front of their location.”
Every tree that you see planted throughout Oakview, they planted — on their own — on a Sunday. His family was postmaster in 2001.
“We’ve been around six generations and have a nice history. I value that,” said Webster.
You can reach Greg Rents at 805/649-2590 and at its location 420 N. Ventura Ave., Oak View, Calif., 93022, www.gregrents.com.
For more information regarding Volvo and its electric machines, you can reach Ed Galindo at Volvo Construction Equipment & Services: cell: 626/523-9522; office: 951/277-7620; www.vcesvolvo.com. CEG