Why Are New Wheel Loaders Seeing More Fuel Efficiency-Part 2

Why Are New Wheel Loaders Seeing More Fuel Efficiency-Part 2

Date:Jul 06, 2017


Changes for operators, service techs

Pete Gallagher, wheel loader product sales manager in North America for JCB, says educating operators on operational techniques is essential. The lock-up torque converter, for example, should be used on travel runs of 165 feet or more but has no benefit during V-pattern loading. Operators can toggle the lock-up feature on or off accordingly. DPF is another area requiring education as operator habits can have a big impact on DPF function.

Gallagher also says that while the advanced design of today’s wheel loaders puts less emphasis on operator skill, “in every application you can see the difference between a well-trained, highly-skilled operator and one with less training and lesser skills. The magnitude of that difference depends largely on the application. Site prep magnifies the difference while stockpiling minimizes it. But the difference is always apparent even with the most sophisticated equipment.”

Although not directly connected to fuel savings, there are changes in Tier 4 machines that will affect both operators and service technicians. Todd Johnson, district sales manager for Hyundai, uses regeneration as an example. While passive regen is transparent to the operator, active regen requires that operators find a 15-minute window for the process to occur. “Operators understand that hotter is better,” says Johnson, “and that operating habits can extend active regeneration intervals out to 2,000 hours or even longer.” He says machines should be run hard then allowed to cool down for three minutes (“one song on the radio”) before shutdown. Minimizing idling also helps extend regen intervals.

Johnson points out the importance of competency in service. For example, swapping out an injector must be done with care and the details recorded. “One injector can take you out of emissions compliance.” Outsourcing service doesn’t make you immune from problems. As with site contamination where the EPA uses the “strict, joint, and several” approach to penalties, equipment owners are responsible for keeping their machines in emissions compliance whether they do the work in-house or sub it out.

Service personnel need to be aware of general shifts in the industry, says Philippe Bisson, brand marketing manager for Case Construction Equipment. He cites coolant as an example. “Many Tier 4 machines are switching to Organic Acid Technology (OAT) coolant for increased protection and overall better coolant performance. OAT coolants help eliminate fouling and deposits that prevent heat transfer from the metal to the coolant. But OAT coolants are incompatible with other coolants and service personnel need to be aware of what coolant is shipped in each machine.”

Sardenberg makes a similar point regarding DEF. “Caterpillar recommends topping off the DEF tank every time the machine is refueled. DEF should be stored in a stable, protected environment as exposure to sun and temperature variations can degrade its quality.” 

Technology flow in and out

Hybrids are emerging in the equipment market, but they’re more like rail locomotives and mine trucks than passenger vehicles. Deere’s two hybrid loaders, the 644K and 944K, illustrate this. An engine drives a generator which then powers the machine’s electric drive system. The result is excellent torque at low engine speed, high rimpull with a comparatively small engine, and fuel savings. The 6.8-liter engine in the 644K runs at a constant speed – 900; 1,200; 1,500; or 1,800 rpm – to match the load. Some customers report cutting fuel consumption nearly in half when running at 1,500 rpm.

Why now? What now?

So if wheel loaders have been so ripe for huge gains in fuel economy, why have manufacturers waited this long to deliver? Part of the answer is that it took this long for the required technologies to mature and make it into production. Part of it is that manufacturers held back a bit so they could offer improved fuel usage along with a host of other features to help offset the higher cost of Tier 4 machines. “Tier 4 put a date on the calendar,” says Bisson. “This is years of research and development plus technologies brought in from other industries (SCR has been proven in on-road trucking for many years), all coming together in this generation of equipment.”

So is there another giant leap just over the horizon? Should customers take the plunge now or wait for the next big thing? Gallagher says there’s no time like the present. “Today’s wheel loaders offer outstanding production in terms of material moved per unit of fuel. Do you want to give up three years of productivity while awaiting something better? The industry is constantly advancing and will continue to develop new and better machines. But today’s equipment offers the best performance ever and waiting means missing out on that.”

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