Deere Unveils Diesel/Electric Loaders

Deere Developing 9-cubic-yard Hybrid 944K Wheel Loader

John Deere unveiled today at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2011 the 9-cu.-yd. diesel/electric hybrid 944K wheel loader the company is preparing for launch in 2013, and a diesel/electric version of its 644K loader it will begin selling next year.

"In addition to fewer emissions, customers asked for durability, fuel efficiency and reduced tire wear," said John Chesterman, product marketing manager for four-wheel-drive loaders with John Deere. "We've responded with a loader that incorporates four modular, independent wheel drives with electronic traction control."

The 9-cubic-yard loader will use electric traction, meaning the engine drives two generators, and that power drives an electric motor paired to a final drive at each wheel. (See the photos) Sophisticated, responsive traction control should not only provide excellent terrain ability, but it should improve fuel efficiency, reduce tire wear, and increase drive-train durability. The system is also expected to be more reliability than conventional drivelines because of the reduction in number of moving parts.

Deere approached the 644K slightly differently, inserting in the powertrain behind the engine a generator/motor, which turns a transmission input shaft. The rest of the driveline is conventional.

Deere is waiting for battery technology to improve before installing energy storage devices on its diesel/electric wheel loaders, but expects fuel-efficiency improvements of up to 20% with the with the 644K and up to 30% with the 944K. Keeping the engine at constant speed is key to both fuel savings and reduced emissions from the loaders.

Customers also asked that the 944K give them better bucket-dumping visibility, so it includes a traditional dual-arm boom design.

But the company is not rushing this engineering departure to market.

"We won't rest until this nine-yard production-sized loader addresses customer requirements for maximum productivity and uptime, and lower daily operating costs," said Chesterman. "We are targeting 2013 for launch."

A Deere statement says the 944K will undergo rigorous customer testing and will not be available until it fully meets every customer need.