Waste Hauler Sees Big Fuel Savings With Hybrid Excavator

📅 Tue August 07, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson - CEG CORRESPONDENT


Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Palm Beach County, Fla., has made its first purchase of a Komatsu HB215 hybrid hydraulic excavator, the only hybrid machine of its kind on the market.
Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Palm Beach County, Fla., has made its first purchase of a Komatsu HB215 hybrid hydraulic excavator, the only hybrid machine of its kind on the market.

Yet another American operation has recognized the benefits of so-called “green technology” and decided to embrace it.

Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Palm Beach County, Fla., has made its first purchase of a Komatsu HB215 hybrid hydraulic excavator, the only hybrid machine of its kind on the market.

Introduced in March 2011 at the ConExpo-Con/AGG convention in Las Vegas, this model is already famous for its fuel savings, as compared to comparable mid-sized excavators, and for the ease with which it operates.

A First in South Florida

In buying the Komatsu earlier this spring, SWA became the first South Florida business entity to own a hybrid excavator.

After seeing a demonstration of the machine through Linder Industrial Machinery, with nearby locations in West Palm Beach and Pembroke Pines, Matt Chapman, SWA’s maintenance manager, decided the benefits were too great not to buy one.

“The fuel savings are a big deal to us, absolutely, but it also has good power and is a comfortable machine to operate,” he said. “The operators find it much easier to run as compared to others we use. Plus, it is a hybrid, meaning that it is something that everybody, sooner or later, is going to own and use.”

Chapman has put the excavator into use as an all-day loader of vegetation, yard waste and old logs. What he has seen so far has exceeded his expectations.

“It has only been working for us for a couple of months, but I would say we have seen fuel costs that are about half of what we see on other excavators,” he explained. “A standard excavator burns about five gallons per hour and we are currently burning about two-and-a-half.”

Chapman cautioned that they are not yet using the Komatsu hybrid to its fullest capacity, as they still are in a learning phase with the machine, but he added that when they do get the excavator fully ramped up he expects the savings to remain substantial.

Converts Kinetic Energy to Electricity

The Komatsu hybrid excavator utilizes an electric swing motor that converts kinetic energy to electricity through the use of its swing-braking. That energy is then stored in its capacitor (rather than a battery) before being discharged immediately in the rotation of the upper structure and to assist the engine.

As compared to regular excavators, the hybrid is designed to save an average of 25 percent more fuel, with a like reduction in CO2 emissions.

Operators Need Minimal Training

Linder’s Bob Fontaine and Jason Heim worked with Chapman to get the Komatsu hybrid excavator, then before putting on a short training session with SWA operators to learn how to run the machine.

Chapman described the excavator as very intuitive to use and found that his operators only needed a minimum of training before climbing into the driver’s seat.

SWA a Big Operation

The Komatsu hybrid should get quite a workout over its lifespan at SWA. The outfit is a governmental agency responsible for the “economical and environmentally conscious” management of solid waste generated by Palm Beach County’s approximately 1.4 million residents, as well as the county’s thousands of businesses. SWA is governed by the county’s board of commissioners.

SWA of Palm Beach County has around 400 employees to handle the area’s waste disposal, which includes recycling services and programs. Chapman employs 47 people in the waste maintenance department alone.

Chapman is the man tasked with deciding when his department needs new equipment. He buys machines from a variety of dealers and has a number of standard excavators at his disposal

Although the excavator is the first hybrid in the SWA fleet, Chapman feels pretty confident that he will be calling on Linder about adding more hybrids to SWA’s rolling stock in the future.

“I would tell anyone who asked me for a recommendation on the Komatsu hybrid that the technology is great and this machine is definitely worth buying,” he said. “It is a little extra money, but you will be paid back pretty quickly with the fuel savings.”