Kubota has introduced the Eco Plus system on its four new excavators (KX040-4 and larger). “EcoPlus allows our customers to select ‘eco mode’ when fuel conservation is a priority, offering fuel savings of up to 20%,” says Rohrbacker. Auto idle is standard on machines from 3 to 4 tons and larger. “When the control levers are in the neutral position for more than four seconds, the engine rpm automatically idles. Move any control lever and the engine rpm immediately returns to the pre-set level.”
Compact excavators are really evolving into tool carriers, so hydraulic flow is crucial. “Depending upon the attachments you want to run, you need to look at the auxiliary flow rates,” says Purcell.
“For me, auxiliary flow is important,” says Kaiser. “That has been one of the biggest improvements. Everybody has upped the flow on the auxiliary line so you can effectively run larger compaction attachments. Many previous models offered 15 gpm. It is just not enough.”
The Takeuchi TB153 that Kaiser purchased in 2012 offers 23 gpm. “It runs all of the attachments very well,” he states. “That’s good because I can put more attachments on it and get a better return on my investment.”
Wacker Neuson pays particular attention to demolition attachment performance. “All of our machines in this weight class have two return lines as standard equipment,” says Purcell. “One line is direct-to-tank. If you run one-way attachments, like a hammer, you will have maximum performance because of that direct-to-tank return line.” There is no backpressure to drag down performance.
Most manufacturers offer proportional control of auxiliary hydraulics. “My newest Takeuchi is proportional and it is much nicer,” says Kaiser. “You can feather the thumb switch, where before it was pretty much on or off. If you were handling pipe or culvert, you had to be careful that you didn’t crush them.”
There has also been an effort to make more room on the floor where traditional auxiliary controls are located. In the case of John Deere, the pedals that run the auxiliary hydraulic circuits fold out of the way when not needed.
Bobcat takes a different approach. “The auxiliary control method has historically been a foot pedal,” Connor comments. “Those are now fingertip and proportional. The operator who runs a clamp attachment every day clamors to work with fingertip control, especially when coming up from a smaller machine.” Fingertip controls are also used to control boom swing.
Compare boom and stick offerings
There are several boom and stick offerings available for compact models, including an extendible arm.
Bobcat offers an optional extendible arm on its 5 1/2-ton excavator. It can provide the needed capability without requiring you to jump to the next size machine to gain another 2 or 3 ft. of reach.
“If you simply went by the next size machine, you would jump up 5,000 lbs. in weight,” says Connor. “With an extendible arm, you are basically adding 400 lbs. at the most.” This can be important depending upon the trailer and the tow vehicle you use to move the machine between jobsites.
Bobcat has offered extendible arms on smaller machines for years. “In the last year, we released extendible arms on big machines,” says Connor. “We sell it on our 4-, 4 1/2- and 5-ton excavators. It is a decent percentage of that volume.”
Kubota offers an extendible arm option for the KX91-3 (7,635 lbs.) and an extendible boom option for the KX080-3 (19,204 lbs.). “With the Super Double boom’s wide leveling range and a wide tilt bucket, operators can easily level and finish, even on the uneven surfaces,” says Rohrbacker. “The extended reach combined with the added dumping height make it easy to place the spoil in the center of the truck and knock the top of the pile.”
John Deere takes a different approach by offering a standard and a long arm. “There are advantages to offering either a short arm or long arm,” says Wall. “We take away the wear point of that extendible arm and give you the functionality of a longer arm if you need more reach and dig depth.” Counterweight is added to maintain the same lift capacity as with the short arm. “By having a long arm with a heavier counterweight, it gives the same feel as a machine equipped with a standard counterweight and a short arm.”