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Here Come The Hybrids!

Oct 2, 2013 - 6 years ago

By Supply Post

Construction companies now have a few technological options to decrease their operating costs, increase their fuel efficiency, and enhance their environmental stewardship by taking advantage of new hybrid construction equipment.

By Mark Wolfe

More than a decade after the Honda Insight hybrid automobile was released in the Japanese consumer market in 1997, the past three years have seen North American hybrid construction equipment offerings from Komatsu, Deere, and Caterpillar. Komatsu was one of the first manufacturers to release a product in this area with their hybrid HB215LC-1 hydraulic excavator.

Deere followed with their 644K hybrid loader, and Caterpillar recently unveiled the Cat 336E H hybrid excavator. Hybrid equipment takes advantage of traditional fuel sources, but it also uses new technological innovations to recover and reuse energy that would otherwise be wasted. This translates into lower emissions and reduced fuel consumption without sacrificing performance.

On average, the cost difference between purchasing a conventional machine and a hybrid is about 15 to 20 per cent, but this cost is off-set through the 20 to 25 per cent reduction in fuel costs, and the significant benefits to the environment. These advantages are optimized when using equipment that repeats the same movement. For example, the Cat 336E H excavator captures energy when the machine slows down or stops, and then releases it as the machine accelerates. On a typical job site, an excavator may repeat the same cycle every several seconds, which represents a significant energy savings opportunity. “Since fuel is one of the largest operating costs for our customers in general, quarry and heavy construction applications, this is a technology that directly improves their bottom lines,” says Gary Stampanato, Caterpillar Vice President with Responsibility for the Excavation Division.

In addition to reduced operating costs, in some cases a hybrid machine is easier to handle.

“Operating a conventional [wheel loader] can be challenging because to effectively load the bucket, the operator has to manage engine speed, which changes pushing force and hydraulic speed,” says John Chesterman, Product Marketing Manager, Production Class Wheel Loaders, John Deere Construction & Forestry. “The 644K hybrid wheel loader is much easier to operate due to the constant engine speed near its power peak, the full hydraulic flow that is available since the hydraulic pump runs at a constant speed, and the strong pushing power from the electric motor which delivers its maximum torque when nearly stopped.”

Although the construction sector is just starting to experience the advantages of this new technology, the decision to purchase a hybrid comes down to how much you value a larger initial investment for long term savings.

“Current machines can consume a lot of fuel and leave a large carbon footprint,” says Ontario-based Komatsu equipment dealer, Jodie Willis, Manager – Communications & Property at Equipment Sales & Service Limited. “The world is trending towards trying to curb emissions, and embrace any technology that is more efficient, costs less, and is environmentally friendly.”

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