Ahead of CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2023, Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) announced many of the machines and technologies it plans to launch at the event. Held in conjunction with the International Fluid Power Exposition (IFPE), CONEXPO provides an opportunity to see what is happening in the construction equipment industry – a key user of hydraulics.
During the company’s virtual pre-CONEXPO press conference, it discussed how electrification is currently a key area of focus for its development efforts due to the growing need to reduce emissions as well as noise on construction sites. However, the company also understands this will not be the only solution for the heavy equipment industry.
As such, it is also researching hydrogen options – both fuel cell and engines – and ways to continue running combustion engines in a sustainable manner. Each of the machines to be launched at CONEXPO will exemplify these varied efforts while technology solutions, such as its collision avoidance system, will demonstrate ways in which it is working to make construction safer and more productive.
New Hydraulic Cylinder Benefits Updated Wheel Loader
Volvo CE is planning to launch an updated version of its L350H wheel loader for the North American market at CONEXPO 2023. Various updates have been made to the machine, including to its hydraulic components.
According to the company, the L350H is its largest wheel loader built for productivity, durability and a range of different applications. The biggest difference between the updated model and the existing one is the inclusion of a new drivetrain with new transmission and axles said Eric Yeomans, Product Manager, Wheel Loaders at Volvo CE, during the press conference. New features in the axles such as a dry parking brake help to improve the machine’s fuel efficiency.
Yeomans said another key feature of the updated wheel loader is the improvements made to its hydraulics system. The system is more responsive and features new lift and tilt cylinders which help to improve cycle types. “If you can reduce your cycle time, you’re going to improve your productivity,” he said.
Volvo CE was able to achieve this by changing the diameter of the cylinders and increasing hydraulic working pressures, said Yeomans. Breakout and hydraulic forces are maintained, but now cycle time is improved by increasing the speed of the lifting, lowering and dumping functions.
The company estimates these hydraulic system improvements enable 10% faster work cycles and higher productivity to be achieved.
More Electric-Powered Machines Entering Lineup
Currently, Volvo CE has five electric machines in its lineup which are commercially available – three compact excavators and two compact wheel loaders. Ray Gallant, Vice President Product Management and Productivity at Volvo CE, said during the press conference that feedback from customers using the machines so far has been good. They like that they match the performance of diesel alternatives while being quieter and emissions free.
In 2023, the company plans to introduce two new models its electric equipment lineup, a DCR 18 short swing radius 1.8-ton mini excavator and an EC 18 conventional swing small excavator. At the company’s CONEXPO booth it will also be showing its first electrified mid-range excavator, the EC230.
The 23-ton EC230 features a 600V battery and is Volvo CE’s first step into electrifying the rest of its range of larger equipment said Gallant. To date the excavator has undergone customer trials in Europe and in 2023 will undergo testing with customers in North America. The company is anticipating having the machine available for sale in 2024.
It was stated during the press conference that demand for electric equipment in North America has been more higher than the company anticipated, and there have been a wide range of applications in which use of these machines is desired. Demand in Europe is strong as well and moving at a faster pace than the company initially thought.
How large electric machines will go is yet to be seen. Gallant said it will depend on technology availability and how it advances. There are more challenges associated with electrifying larger machines due to the size and amount of batteries needed, hence the company’s investigation into other technologies like hydrogen. Volvo CE plans to show its developments to date in this area as well.
Melker Jernberg, President, Volvo CE, said that until recently the EC230 mid-size excavator would not have been possible. But technology advancements have enabled continued expansion of electric machine sizes. He noted development of larger machines will be a balance of cost and technology. He also emphasized that overall, the goal is about helping customers be more productive which is also a key part of sustainability. The more productive you can be, the less time and energy spent on a project leading to reduced fuel use and emissions.
Implementation of automation and assistance features are among the ways Volvo CE is helping operators be more productive. A few select excavator models feature Volvo Active Assist which essentially enables automated control of the hydraulics to help operators stay on grade and thus improve productivity by eliminating mistakes and rework.
Expanding Electric Machine Categories
At CONEXPO the company will also unveil a new machine category to its electric portfolio, the DD25 electric asphalt compactor. “This is our first foray into a different line other than excavators and loaders,” said Gallant.
The DD25 Electric asphalt compactor is a 2.5-ton, zero-emissions machine featuring an updated design from its diesel counterpart. Its electric driveline is based upon the same architecture and components as Volvo CE’s first electric machines, the ECR25 Electric compact excavator and L25 Electric compact wheel loader. Depending on duty cycle, the company expects the machine to provide a full shift of operation on a single charge.
Benefits of the machine beyond emissions include 24 kW of available power due to the battery and motor technology utilized which is 30% more than the conventional Volvo DD25B asphalt compactor. Caring for the machine is easier as well through use of maintenance-free bearings and a lack of motor oil and engine filters. John Rouse, Asphalt Compaction Engineer at Volvo CE, said there is only hydraulic oil and grease points for the articulation joints included on the machine, greatly minimizing the amount of maintenance required.
Rouse said a few updates were made to the hydraulics system of the DD25 Electric but for the most part it is similar to the diesel version. During development of the asphalt compactor the company identified where there were losses in the hydraulic system and did what it could to minimize those which helps to save battery power.
Gallant added that Volvo CE is still in the early stages of its electrification journey and energy management is going to be a vital component by optimizing efficiency. “Getting more out of our hydraulics, more out of the machines, more out of every kilowatt is going to be key to making this successful,” he said.
“If we are wasteful with the energy then we're not going to have the duty cycles we want, we're not going to have the efficiency and the productivity gains that we envision these technologies could bring to the table,” he continued. “So to me hydraulics is a key technology – hydraulic efficiency, hydraulic advancements – and electrical and powertrain enhancements are keys to making this work and getting our energy efficiency much higher.”
The DD25 Electric is undergoing testing, but the company expects to begin taking orders for it by late 2023 and delivering machines in the first quarter of 2024.
Volvo CE concluded the press conference by noting the construction industry is changing at a rapid pace and the company believes those who are ready for it are the ones who are going to be most successful.