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The power of zero
Atlas Copco’s Z3+ light tower is a zero-emission, zero-noise innovation that heralds a new generation of battery-powered products. Here is the story about a brand-new solution that was actually ahead of its time.
Sometimes innovations stem from a direct customer need, but sometimes they anticipate that need before even the customer itself realizes it.
Atlas Copco’s Z3+ light tower is one of those “great anticipators”. When the project began in 2016, light towers – commonly used on construction sites and for outdoor events -- were overwhelmingly still diesel-powered. And the team at Atlas Copco’s factory in Zaragoza, Spain, was starting to develop the product at a time when it had very little knowledge of battery performance.
“It was a challenge for our engineers,” says Rubén Trevejo, Design & Development Manager. “We had to learn about batteries. For instance, we had to work out how the battery runs and the performance cycles of the battery.”
“With truly innovative products, you’re not always at the perfect moment in time,” adds Félix Gómez, Product Marketing Manager and one of the people behind the Z3+. “Sometimes the market doesn’t know what it wants. In the end you have to make some assumptions and even fail and learn from this as you continue the development process. You also have to be humble and implement all the lessons learned from customer feedback.”
“Being first out with such a product in 2019, we really weren’t sure the market was ready for it,” agrees Rubén. “Battery powered light towers mean a larger initial investment, and that’s why we ensured that low maintenance and good performance are important characteristics of the machine. In the end, the product is more efficient and less expensive to run. Over time it pays for itself.”
Unlike products from competitors who have since jumped on the battery-powered bandwagon, the Atlas Copco Z3+ light tower uses a lithium battery. That gives it a lifespan of around 6,000 life cycles, ten times the performance of conventional batteries. The other main benefits are its zero noise, zero emission performance, which anticipate ever-tightening carbon emission and noise pollution standards, making it ideally suited for urban-based applications.
“Some of our biggest customers in this sector are rental companies, who rent equipment to construction and events firms. Our technology means they can take advantage of a zero noise and zero emissions produce – it’s truly the ‘power of zero’!” says Félix.
“Initially the market was more focused on the events side, but now European and Oceanian countries especially are developing stricter regulations on both emissions and noise limits. These will have a great effect on the light tower, generator and compressor markets. The rental companies want to be ahead, and we can help them by adding this kind of product to their offering,” he says.
As befits such an innovative product, it hasn’t been an easy journey. But Félix and Rubén are both energized by the fact that they have worked on a solution that addresses sustainability issues and public health aspects. Félix cites the World Health Organization finding that two of the key issues facing city-dwellers today are air quality and noise levels, while Rubén says, “I’m proud to work on something that contributes to a more sustainable future for our children.”
Some of our biggest customers in this sector are rental companies, who rent equipment to construction and events firms. Our technology means they can take advantage of a zero noise and zero emissions produce – it’s truly the ‘power of zero’!”
Félix Gómez Divisional Product Marketing Manager, Light Towers & Portable Generators
Z3+ Battery light tower
Main feature: Ensures three times more energy density than lead-acid and gel battery types, with a lifetime of 6,000 cycles. The high luminosity LED lamp assembly is supported by a hydraulically elevated eight-meter mast that can stand 80 km/h wind.
Super power: Powered with lithium-ion batteries, which means no emissions and zero noise during operations.
Used at: Outdoor concerts and sport events, construction sites, even open-air weddings
And, amidst the challenges, Félix was personally inspired by a pep talk from Atlas Copco’s CEO Mats Rahmström when he visited Zaragoza in 2018.
“We showed our CEO the light towers and I remember that he told me, ‘Sometimes you need to try and to fail’. I really liked this comment. This culture of bravery helps when you’re launching an innovative product that perhaps doesn’t fit right away with the market.”
He adds, “This product is the cornerstone for a new generation of light towers. We’re now working with the lessons we’ve learned to explore solar-powered and hybrid-powered light towers, as well as developing a new battery tower. I’m very passionate and excited about this.”
And Rubén says, “We took a risk and the customer learned about the product with us. We like to invent new things, which is what makes Atlas Copco such a great company for engineers. We’re doing something worthwhile and breaking new ground.”
Meet our innovators
Félix Gómez
Divisional Product Marketing Manager, Light Towers & Portable Generators
What motivates you? “When you’re passionate about what you’re doing it creates a real motivation to go the extra mile, to come with ideas on how to build the product and keep an eye on new technologies and trends in other industries too. This is an interesting job and very diverse. I’m working with R&D, sourcing, production, logistics, marketing, customer centers, end customers and dealers. I have a global overview of the whole portfolio. I’ve found my place after working in engineering, service and sales jobs. It’s the perfect combination for me.”
Rubén Trevejo
Design & Development Manager, Power and Light
Most fun moment at work? “We’re always thinking about new ideas and innovations to make the industrial area more efficient. We want to be first in choice, so we need to be innovative, offering the customer something new, something that increases their efficiency, their total operating costs, something different. We do it to improve the status of the market with new functions and new profitable solutions.”