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Columbus Equipment Unveils Komatsu Hybrid Excavator

Tue December 15, 2009 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Columbus Equipment Company unveiled a newer, greener future to the Ohio construction industry when it demonstrated the world’s only hybrid excavator, the Komatsu Hybrid PC200LC-8, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Nov. 16.

While it uses different technology than today’s popular hybrid cars, the idea behind the hybrid excavator is similar — generating and storing electricity to be used by the engine later, resulting in lower fuel consumption and less air pollution.

“We’re very excited about the new technology. This is the first hybrid excavator in North America, and we get a chance to show this technologically-advanced machine to customers who are concerned about the environment,” said Jeff Richards, marketing manager of the Columbus-based construction equipment dealership.

The hybrid machine uses substantially less fuel than conventional excavators — 25 to 40 percent less, depending on what application the machine is used for, based on in-the-field-experience with this hybrid in Asia. Using less fuel means the hybrid is more cost-effective to operate and emits substantially less carbon dioxide than a conventional excavator.

Columbus Equipment Company has selected three construction companies to trial the machine. The first is John R. Jurgensen Companies, which is looking to invest in several of the hybrid excavators as soon as they are available for sale in the United States. Jurgensen has received a Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant from Ohio to assist in upgrading to cleaner equipment. Jurgensen’s interest was one factor in Komatsu’s decision to introduce the new machine in Ohio.

“There are several non-attainment counties [where air quality standards have not been met] in both northeast and southwest Ohio,” Richards said, and that makes the hybrid machine particularly attractive to local contractors. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Grants are designed to improve the air quality performance of Ohio’s transportation sector, especially in non-attainment counties, by reducing barriers that prevent public and private equipment owners from acquiring emission-reduction technology.

After the Jurgensen trial, RB Jergens Contractors Inc. and Kokosing Construction Company also will use the new hybrid machine for several months each. Komatsu has not yet announced when the hybrid excavator will be available for sale in the United States.

The Hybrid PC200LC-8 is a hybrid version of Komatsu’s 20-ton (18 t) hydraulic excavator. The 20-ton size class is the largest market segment for excavators worldwide, and Komatsu is the only manufacturer to offer a hybrid excavator. The hybrid is just as powerful as Komatsu’s conventional 20-ton excavator, Richards said, noting that operators will be surprised at how quiet the machine is.

“A lot of operators equate noise with power. After test running this machine, they will know differently,” Richards said.

In designing the Hybrid PC200LC-8, Komatsu replaced the hydraulics normally used to move the excavator’s upper structure with an electric swing motor. This technology converts kinetic energy generated during the swing braking phase into electricity, using swing energy regeneration principles. This electricity is then stored in the Komatsu Ultra Capacitor system, and, via the power generation motor, assists the engine in the acceleration phase. By using the energy while accelerating, fewer engine revolutions are required, resulting in more efficient combustion. In addition, while the engine idles, the hybrid excavator maintains a low rate of engine revolution, further reducing fuel consumption.

Unlike automobiles, which need a large amount of electric energy only when they start moving and accelerate, construction equipment has to accommodate dynamic and frequently-fluctuating engine revolutions for excavator work. The batteries used in electric cars discharge electricity too slowly for construction applications, so Komatsu utilizes a capacitor which instantaneously stores and discharges electricity.

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