Stacking up the loader launches

Electric prototypes, a new generation of large excavators, and a major equipment manufacturer making its debut in the European wheeled loader market are among the major recent loading-sector developments.
Loading, Hauling & Excavation / January 24, 2023
By Liam McLoughlin
Hitachi Construction Machinery Europe’s Bill Drougkas at bauma with the new ZW250-7 wheeled loader. Image: Guy Woodford
Hitachi Construction Machinery Europe’s Bill Drougkas at bauma with the new ZW250-7 wheeled loader. Image: Guy Woodford

Among the eye-catching new loader and excavator offerings at the bauma 2022 international fair in Munich, Germany (October 24-30) was the new next-generation model from Hitachi’s Stage V-compliant wheeled loader range.

The manufacturer says the ZW250-7 – which is suitable for quarrying applications - has been designed to put operators in complete control of their workspace – and master the toughest job-site conditions – with new safety features and improved comfort in the cab. It adds that the new machine puts owners in control of their profit with a high level of performance, low total cost of ownership and exceptional efficiency. Fleet and workload performance is improved due to remote-monitoring tools and services provided by Hitachi.

With the ‘aerial angle’ camera system, Hitachi says operators have an exceptional 270-degree bird’s-eye view of the job site, while the rear obstacle-detection and warning system alerts them immediately if anything is close to the rear of the machine.

The new Komatsu prototype electric loader can be used as a quarrying support machine
The new Komatsu prototype electric loader can be used as a quarrying support machine

Hitachi also showcased its next-generation of Zaxis-7 large excavators for quarrying and mining at bauma.

The cab of the new ZX890LCH-7 Stage  V-compliant model offers reduced noise and vibration levels in the cab.

New features include the synchronised motion of the seat and console – to reduce operator fatigue – and the adjustable console height with three positions to choose from. Easy operation comes from the ergonomic design of the console and switches, and the hi-res anti-glare 8” screen is also easier to view.

Hitachi says that an impressive fuel saving of up to 20% (PWR mode) compared to previous models of the ZX890LCH-7 is achieved by its HIOS-V hydraulic system. It adds that this also enhances efficiency in the swing, boom lowering and arm bucket roll-out. Productivity is further increased by the improved front speed for loading operations; and the increased engine output of the new Zaxis-7 machines contributes to a higher workload.

The fuel efficiency of the ZX890LCH-7 can also be controlled by using the new ECO gauge on the cab’s multifunctional monitor.

Also on show at bauma was Komatsu’s new 20-tonne class electric hydraulic excavator that is equipped with a lithium-ion battery system.

The battery system is supplied by US-based Proterra and, since January 2021, the two companies have been jointly developing electric medium-sized hydraulic excavators and conducting PoC (proof of concept) tests on advance research machines at customer sites. The machine is scheduled to be introduced to the Japanese and European markets in 2023.

Komatsu also showcased a prototype for its first fully electric compact wheeled loader at bauma. Recently designed and built together with Moog, the designer, manufacturer, and integrator of precision control components and systems, this new connected and automation-ready construction machine is battery-powered  with zero-emissions and is now ready for joint testing.

Moog’s intelligent electric system includes an electric traction motor, lift, tilt and steering electric cylinders, power electronics, system control computer, battery, and battery management system. The integrated control system connects and coordinates the actions across the machine, while the all-electric actuators and motors provide the force to the machine’s traction and loading system. The integrated nature of the system enables industry-leading system efficiency and controllability.

“To achieve our CO2 emission reduction targets from products in use of 50% by 2030 from 2010 levels, to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2050, we are looking for promising technologies from suppliers to accelerate our electric machine development,” said Seiichi Fuchita, chief technology officer and president of the development division at Komatsu. “The machine built together with Moog combines the strengths of both companies and was finalized within a short period of time and we expect the joint testing will show the advantages of a full electric machine and will prove collaboration is beneficial for both sides.”

John Deere is introducing two P-Tier wheeled loader models in the UK and Germany
John Deere is introducing two P-Tier wheeled loader models in the UK and Germany

The companies say they are jointly testing the fully electric loader after bauma to prove that it can achieve a new level of efficiency, operating time, and comfort. They add that the test will show that the machine’s operating cycle is extended, and, with innovative assist functions, that it provides a “fatigue-proof” and comfortable environment for the operator to manage the machine and his day.

The prototype’s intelligent machine electrification system is designed to be connected and automation-ready. The system has the sensing and control capabilities needed for automation while the integrated software framework comes with built-in tools to coordinate multiple axes of motion and precisely controlled torque, velocity, position, and force.

Michael Wadsack, senior product manager   - product marketing, at Komatsu EU, says the machine is a very early concept and will be tested for use on construction sites.

“It’s a compact machine (0.95m3 bucket) and not a typical quarry or aggregate machine,” Wadsack added. “However, customers from these segments are using also compact wheeled loaders – more as a support machine for cleaning or other services.

“At a later stage the electric concept can also be transferred to larger machines, and this is something to be considered in the long run.”

Komatsu says that the machine design replaces the loading and powerline hydraulic completely with electrical actuators.

At bauma John Deere announced its first offering of wheeled loaders in the United Kingdom and Germany. After making their debut in the United States in September 2022, the 744 P-tier and 824 P-tier models are the first performance tiered loaders available in select European countries. As part of the Deere & Company family of brands, the Wirtgen Group will manage distribution of the P-Tier line-up through their European dealer network.

"Our customers are an integral part of our product development process and incorporating their input guides our product decisions around the globe," said Luke Gribble, solutions marketing manager for loaders and aggregates at John Deere Construction & Forestry. "That’s why we are excited to introduce the versatile and performance-enhancing P-tier models to our customers in Europe."

The manufacturer says the 744 P-tier and 824 P-tier loaders offer exceptional results at high levels with reliable components such as extra-durable axles and enhanced transmission capabilities. The extra-durable axles feature larger capacity front-axle input bearings, axle-shaft diameter and bearing size increases, and pressure-lubed front-input bearings designed to help reduce heat, increase component life, and boost overall machine reliability.

The P-tier transmission includes a standard lockup torque converter, which adds additional torque during operation and improves fuel economy while transporting materials. The improved lockup logic is designed to increase performance and shift quality, while the updated speed sensors improve low torque shifting and downshift, improving performance when going into piles. Both loaders come equipped with the John Deere 9.0-litre engine that increases horsepower while minimising fuel consumption.

Electric actuation has previously been utilised by Volvo CE on an electric mini excavator prototype in 2017, while RG LeTourneau pioneered the technology in the 1960s.

The first Volvo EC550E excavators to be deployed in Great Britain are proving to be a highly productive and profitable addition to Ashcourt Group’s fleet of earthmoving equipment from SMT GB.

Yorkshire-based Ashcourt Group was the first customer to place an order with equipment dealer SMT GB following the launch of the new EC550E crawler excavator and has now received the first two units in the country.

Ashcourt Group’s first Volvo EC550E crawler excavator at Partridge Hall Quarry
Ashcourt Group’s first Volvo EC550E crawler excavator at Partridge Hall Quarry

The EC550E features a larger bucket and upgraded structural components to enable operators to achieve productivity comparable with a much larger machine, while the new electro-hydraulic technology is said to deliver significantly greater fuel efficiency.

“We were instantly impressed by the specification and the development of the machine with the new hydraulic system, the new electronics, and the new engine technology, so it was prime that we got the orders in,” said Paul Martin, plant director at Ashcourt Group.

The family-owned construction company will use one of the new Volvo EC550E excavators for civil engineering projects, where its strong lifting capacity will come into play. In mass excavation configuration, the second machine will work primarily at Ashcourt Group’s Partridge Hall Quarry, helping on earthwork jobs as needed.

Ashcourt Group typically runs the chalk quarry near Burnby, which it has operated since 2014, with one excavator to rip out material from the face and one loading shovel to fill the mobile crusher and screeners, sort the piles, and load the Volvo FH trucks to transport the aggregates and lime away from the site.

“Because chalk has a low profit percentage, it is better to have fewer machines and staff but with greater productivity,” said Ashcourt Group’s quarry manager Damian Towse.

For the last few years, the company has paired a Volvo EC480E crawler excavator with a Volvo L260H wheeled loader. The new EC550E excavator, however, promises 20% greater production than the EC480E in typical dig and dump applications thanks to its larger bucket and faster cycle times.

The larger bucket is enabled through the increased undercarriage dimensions (for stability), as well as the upgraded structural component dimensions on the frames, boom, and arm. The faster cycle times result from the engine’s high torque at a relatively low rpm combined with large displacement pumps. The 2200Nm (340kW) engine is well in line with much larger competitor machines.

Martin commented: “Fuel efficiency is key for us with red diesel no longer being available and the price of fuel going up. It's important for our cost per tonne in the quarry but also when we are pricing up external projects. We are now looking at fuel month on month across the whole fleet and are trying to drive down the cost of fuel as far as we can. We hope that buying these two EC550E excavators will help us keep on top of that."

The improved fuel efficiency on the EC550E comes from the new electro-hydraulic system, which uses independent metering valve technology (IMVT) instead of a conventional spool-type main control valve (MCV) – an industry-first in this excavator -size class. Oil is pumped exactly according to demand to eliminate hydraulic losses, reduce fuel consumption, and give excellent controllability.

Ashcourt Group has been an SMT GB customer for around a decade. Currently, with 120 pieces of plant equipment, around 98% of which are Volvo brand, Ashcourt Group is incrementally increasing its fleet to meet market demand for both internal and external projects.

“Besides the two EC550E excavators, we are purchasing 45 other new Volvos this year. It’s a massive investment for the business, totalling over £5m, and we’re looking forward to seeing all the new equipment come through,” Martin said.

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