What is a Power Shovel?

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  • Written By: Jessica Reed
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 02 October 2019
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Used most often in construction and mining, the power shovel is a large piece of machinery. It is typically powered by an electric motor and used to shovel out dirt and rock. Though its most common use is simply to move dirt or debris from one spot to another, it may also be used in mining to extract minerals from a site.

The basic machine includes a cabin where the driver sits and controls the arm that extends in front of the machine. Using a combination of levers and pedals, he pushes a curved bucket, or digging bucket, into the ground and raises it up again to scoop out the dirt. The bucket flips up to keep the dirt from falling out, and flips back down to dump the dirt.

The front of the digging bucket is sharp and pointed for breaking up tough earth and scooping up rocks. The top half of the machine can be turned to dump the dirt into another spot without having to turn the entire machine around. Wheels and thick treads on the bottom of the machine allow it to move forward and backward when it needs to travel to different locations for digging. After it dumps the rock or dirt, it swings back around to scoop up another load.


The power shovel is made up of the cabin for the driver to sit in; the electric motor or motors, and parts that power the machine; the boom, which the digging bucket hangs from; and the bucket itself. The power shovel also goes by the name "front shovel" or "stripping shovel." Depending on its use, it may be referred to as an electric mining shovel. It is today's version of the steam shovel, altered for efficiency and powered by electricity.

A smaller power shovel is available for use by homeowners for moving snow or dirt. This machine looks nothing like the larger power shovel, and is pushed along the ground instead of maneuvered with levers. It is small and made up of blades connected to a thin handle. The handle extends upward for the person to grasp without having to bend over.

Depending on the force of the machine and the size of the blades, the home power shovel can sling snow, dirt, or debris several feet away. This can be an effective way to clear a sidewalk in winter, for example. This version of the power shovel is still run by an electric motor, something both power shovels have in common.


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