Editor's MessageThe Hybrid Equation
Will We See Hybrid Construction Equipment in the Compact Marketplace Soon?
In April, we flew into Peoria, Ill., to visit the fine folks at Caterpillar. Cat invited us out to kick the tracks on its just-launched hybrid excavator (the 336E H), operating the big digger next to its popular non-hybrid counterpart (the standard 336E). In June, John Deere has invited Compact Equipment out to Moline, Ill., to run its new hybrid wheel loader (the 644K Hybrid). Both of those machines are pretty large pieces of construction equipment ó a 37-metric ton excavator and a wheel loader with a 40,000-lb plus operating weight (and a 229-hp engine). Will these hybrids get smaller?
Probably not for a while. Buying and selling a hybrid is a balancing act, and small machinery (so far) pushes the savings/profit balance out of whack. A contractor who buys a hybrid understands that a company must pay a premium for the machine, and whatís expected in return? Those companies expect a sizable return on investment through fuel savings, balanced with minimal added maintenance costs for the hybrid system. At $410,000 list, in most territories, the 336E H costs 9 percent more than the normally configured 336E, says Cat, but check with your local dealer for exact pricing. The company has projected a payback period of 18 to 24 months, depending on fuel costs, application and hours of work.
While we were at the event, we asked Catís global product manager for large hydraulic excavators, Ken Gray, if the technologies used on the 336E H would migrate into compact equipment ó machines like skid steers and mini excavators. For Cat, he noted, not in the foreseeable future. Compact equipment just doesnít have the return on investment when calculating the hybrid equation, Gray said. The extra systems needed and the amount of energy that could be captured and reused would not out weigh the sticker shock in the purchase price versus the fuel savings. Thereís just not enough value for customers.
There are two main types of hybrids on the construction equipment market right now. Electric hybrids include the likes of Komatsuís HB215LC-1 hydraulic excavator, which uses an electrically-based hybrid system that employs regenerative braking to capture and store the kinetic energy of its decelerating upper structure in batteries. Then there are hydraulic hybrids like Catís 336E H, which captures the hydraulic energy of the machineís movements in accumulators, which it stores and reuses. Hyundai Heavy Industries is also working on a hydraulic hybrid excavator. Itís called the R220-LC Hi-POSS (Hyundai Intelligent Power Optimal Sharing and Energy Saving), but it will not be available in the United States for a couple of years.
Hydraulics is also the lifeblood of all compact machines (hydraulic oil, pumps and motors basically power all the movements of a skid steer or mini ex), so we feel hydraulic hybrids will probably be the more sensible route for future compact equipment hybrids. Weíll keep you updated as those technologies get smaller, more popular and more affordable.
Sticking with high-tech, this issue is also our annual Digital Video Edition. Throughout the magazine you will see QR codes (like below) peppered in the text. Just grab a smartphone or tablet, open your QR code app and aim it squarely at the magazine. You will be transported to videos that accompany the editorial. From next-generation hybrids to digitized multimedia, tech-savey contractors should have plenty to enjoy in this monthís issue of Compact Equipment.