High fuel prices, competitive bidding for available work and emissions compliance place extraordinary pressures on your business. Increasing productivity and cutting costs can mean the difference between success and mere survival. Recently, several manufacturers have developed innovative equipment solutions that may just give you that competitive advantage.
New hybrid and battery technologies allow equipment to capture kinetic energy that was previously wasted as heat or, in some cases, cut or totally eliminate diesel fuel consumption. While this technology may require a higher initial investment, the payback comes in terms of increased productivity, the ability to work on regulated jobsites and reduced operating costs. Let’s take a look at some of the latest innovations.
AC puts more power to the ground
Caterpillar has increased the operational efficiency of its D7-size dozers by incorporating electric drive components. “The D7E is not only more powerful, it is much faster than its predecessors,” says Sam Meeker, track-type tractor and track-type loader applications. “There is no torque converter to absorb the power, so it is transferred directly to the track.”
The secret to its performance lies with alternating current (AC) technology. “The AC power has very quick response, amazing amounts of torque and low drivetrain losses,” says Meeker. “In addition to being efficient, it is also adapted very well to the dozer. The weight of the machine did not change vs. the D7R powershift tractor, but the balance is better due to the drivetrain components being spaced differently.”
Efficiencies result from being able to finely tune the Caterpillar C9 engine. “The engine can be tuned to run in a narrower band, and a lower RPM band at that,” notes Meeker. “Also, the efficiencies of the electric drivetrain are significant and likely contribute more to the overall efficiency than just the engine. We can basically produce only the power needed, rather than too much or too little.”
Hydraulic efficiency has also been improved. “The hydraulic valves have been located closer to where they do their work — forward for the dozer and rear for the ripper or winch,” says Meeker. Performance and speed have been improved, along with performance with grade control technologies. “In addition, we have eliminated many lines, hoses and leak points for better long-term durability.”
Maintenance demands have decreased, as well. “Since the transmission does not have clutches, and there are fewer bearings, there are less contaminants in the oil,” explains Meeker. “This allows us to have less powertrain oil and increase the interval time for both the oil and filter. The significance compared to overall owning and operating cost is not huge, but every little bit helps. The long-term owning and operating cost is much less, since the components last much longer and are effectively designed for the life of the tractor.”
As you might expect, the price tag for the D7E is higher than for the conventional D7R. However, the higher initial purchase price is quickly recouped. “An average customer will see payback in 2.5 years,” says Meeker. “It will be even shorter as fuel prices increase.”
Hybrid options boost efficiency
John Deere set CONEXPO-CON/AGG visitors abuzz with two hybrid-electric wheel loaders — the 644K and 944K. Each utilizes a unique hybrid solution.
The 644K will be the first out of the gate, with a target date of 2012. It will be sold alongside the conventional torque converter model. “This is a transmission option on the 644,” says Kevin Funke, engineering manager, loaders. An electric generator and motor power the transmission and axles. “We are driving it through a traditional drivetrain system.”
The component layout leverages the conventional design. Coming off the engine is a driveshaft that runs to a gearbox, on which is mounted a generator and hydraulic pumps that run the front linkage. A cable runs from the generator to the Power Electronic Box mounted beneath the platform, with power cables extending from there to an electric motor.