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November/December 2019
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Executive Hire News › Archives › November/December 2019 › Market Report: Compact Plant : Machines on a charge

Market Report: Compact Plant : Machines on a charge

EHN’s Consultant Plant Editor Nick Johnson considers the latest developments in compact plant and discusses the potential for greener and safer machines.

One of the most common compact machines in hire fleets is the mini excavator. Yet the first diminutive self-propelled 360° slew tracked minis only arrived in this country from Japan 40 years ago. The pioneering model here was the 3.15-tonne Kubota KH-10D and it successfully overcame initial scepticism that these machines were simply too small to be effective.

Today, when it comes to mini excavator development, the big question is how quickly machines with batteries and electric motors will become well-accepted. As with cars, many environmentally conscious people now consider quiet, fume free electric drive to be the way forward and a lot of plant makers have been busy developing electric machines.

Having already launched hybrid versions of its 1.3-tonne TB210 and 1.9-tonne TB216 mini excavators, Takeuchi used the Bauma 2019 exhibition to reveal its prototype 1.8-tonne class TB220e all-electric model.

Now in production, Bobcat claims that its new E10e is the industry's first commercially available, fully electric zero tail swing (ZTS) mini in the 1-tonne class. First seen as a prototype at Bauma 2016, it has a maintenance-free, lithium-ion battery pack with an advanced management system.

Optimised for typical work patterns

Bobcat contends that it has optimised the battery pack to provide sufficient capacity for typical work patterns. Using external supercharger functionality, the E10e (when used with normal work breaks), can operate throughout a full eight-hour working day and can be fully recharged within 2.4 hours.
 
JCB used this year’s Executive Hire Show to provide the official exhibition launch of the production version of its 1.94-tonne 19C-1E fully electric mini. This conventional swing machine can be fitted with three or four lithium-ion battery packs to provide a 15-20kWh storage capacity.

On maximum charge the 19C-1E can operate for four hours and full recharging takes 12 hours with a 110V charger, or as little as two hours with a 230V supercharger.

JCB has now sold over 200 electric 19C-1Es. Of particular note is an order from A-Plant for ten units. A-Plant’s Business Development Director, Dave Harris,  says that this investment is indicative of the company’s commitment to purchase a growing range of low or zero carbon products from key suppliers.
 
Electric machines clearly have an operational advantage over their diesel-powered counterparts when working in areas where fumes and noise are an issue. However, their extra capital cost, the need for adequate charging facilities and some concerns about the operating time between charges for continuous operations may initially restrict sales. More stringent health and safety demands and the creation of more Ultra Low Emission Zones in cities are likely to aid their acceptance.

Whilst it has exhibited a prototype electric mini in the past, Kubota’s current ‘green’ focus is an LPG powered model. Its prototype 1.8-tonne class KX019-4 LPG model can run on LPG and it has a next-generation Kubota Spark Ignition engine. LPG has long been used to power small items of construction plant in confined spaces. Again, more Ultra Low Emission Zones could see a significant increase in popularity for this easily available power source. Interestingly, LPG is one of the alternative power sources being developed by Bomag for its BW120AD lightweight tandem rollers.

Electric power is also set to become more popular for small ride-on site dumpers. Along with its first fully electric 1.7-tonne E217e zero tail swing excavator, Wacker Neuson has developed a 1.5-tonne capacity high-tip wheeled machine, designated the DW15e. Ausa has been trialling a 1-tonne payload D100AHA wheeled electric site dumper on sites in Paris.

Potential for cabbed dumpers

Site dumpers continue to be popular in non-operated plant hire fleets and it is anticipated that many more cabbed machines will be used in the future. A cab protects the driver from the elements - as operators of many larger mini excavators know. It also reduces the likelihood of trips and slips on steps when continually leaving the dumper during loading, and eliminates the risk of the operator being struck by other machines whilst standing on the site. However, really definitive guidance must be provided on exactly how the dumper cab should be constructed to allow the operator to remain safely within it during loading.

Mecalac is moving down in size with its cabbed dumpers, having shown prototypes of its 3-tonne payload 3MDX at Bauma and Plantworx. The latter show also revealed several articulated site dumpers fitted with the Moorend triangular track systems. The wet weather at Peterborough allowed the manufacturer to demonstrate the capabilities of a track-equipped 2-tonne payload TA2SEH.

At Plantworx, Wacker Neuson revealed a Moorend track system on a 6-tonne payload DV60 Dual View dumper. This concept, having a cab and a 180° rotating seat with controls on a wheeled dumper is gaining popularity in the UK, judging by the significant numbers seen on Smart Motorway construction sites. Putting tracks on this sort of machine can also facilitate work on river banks and canal towpaths.

Having a reversible seat and controls also improves visibility for operators of fully loaded dumpers when traversing sites. Lower profile skips are another solution that could enhance safety in the future.

Visibility is not a problem with the smallest walk-behind/stand-on-the-back dumpers. Here again, there is a move to electric drive and Tufftruk reports that the majority of its little walk-behind Truxta dumpers now have electric motors (see our dedicated article on page 45).

Innovation is apparent on small battery-powered machines in this category from Ecovolve. At Bauma 2019 the company revealed the prototype of a new loader version. The EL500 has a safe working load of 500kg and can be fitted with a multi-purpose loader bucket.

Avant Tecno has now launched a number of fully electric, compact articulated wheel loaders. Their lithium-ion batteries can be recharged on site using a purpose-built portable fast charging station: perhaps this could become an accepted practice on sites in the future.

Attachments across the spectrum

Indeed, we are likely to see more machines being used with different types of attachments for a wider spectrum of applications - and, in turn, creating more hire opportunities. The mini excavator is now much more than just a digging machine and a good example of this versatility is a Cat machine specially fitted with fence post installation attachments.

The 4-tonne class Cat 304.5E2 XTC (Xtra Tool Carrier) mini has a skid steer coupler interface in place of its front blade, allowing it to use a multi-purpose loader bucket and other attachments. Its flat bottom loader bucket can carry fence posts to where they are needed before the machine’s Grab-N-Drive GD20S attachment from Exac-One pushes them into the ground.

Tiltrotators are now increasingly commonplace on larger excavators in the UK and more are being fitted to compact models. Engcon offers versions for machines weighing as little as 1 tonne and the company believes that a simple, cost-effective plug-and-play solution could be the mass-market option of the future. •
     
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