Heavy duty non-road mobile machines used in construction, mining and agriculture are operated for long periods of time resulting in high fuel consumption and emissions. So why not use similar technology that has proven successful in hybrid cars to improve efficiency? That's exactly what researchers at Aalto University in Finland have done. They've created hybrid machines with both combustion and electric engines that cut the amount of fuel consumed by half.
The new technology captures energy, which up to now has been lost by the machinery when working, and uses it instead of fuel. Unlike hybrid cars, which only capture energy from wheels during coasting and breaking, the electric power transmission system integrated into the machines creates most of the extra energy during work tasks.
The researchers plan to analyze the work cycles of different types of machinery to determine work tasks allow energy to be captured, such as deceleration and lowering a load.
The hybrid work machines enable short-term energy storage, making it possible to store energy for use during a peak in power demand. Other benefits include better control, operator comfort, efficiency and lower operating costs.
With electric power transmission, the machines may even be connected to normal wall sockets, and according to Professor Jussi Suomela, who is in charge of the project at Aalto University’s HybLab research network, they could eventually be outfitted with fuel cells.
[Update: June 8th]
ZDNet reached out to Professor Suomela for additional information on how the hybrid power transmission allows regeneration of braking and potential energy in heavy duty vehicles, such as straddle carriers and mine loaders.
According to Suomela, there are three key factors that determine how much energy is captured, stored, and delivered back to the system. (1) The right dimensioning of components, (2) careful analysis of the duty cycle (fully machine/application specific, unlike on-road vehicles), and (3) control strategy, which keeps the components in the most efficient operational area through the duty cycle and harvests all the possible regenerative energy. He sent to me papers describing each of these. Just email me if you'd like a copy.