Access equipment manufacturers are creating environmentally friendly options

By Euan Youdale06 November 2012

Niftylift’s power pack generates true hybrid drive

Niftylift’s power pack generates true hybrid drive

Access equipment manufacturers are responding not only to legislation but to market demands in creating green machine options, Maria Hadlow reports.

Tier IV and Stage IIIB emissions regulations can be credited with being the catalyst that has accelerated the development of more environmentally friendly access equipment, but other pressures are also at work.

Countries, regions, cities and towns around the world have their own policies on pollution, health and safety and noise. Equipment working in environmentally sensitive areas such as world heritage sites and national parks may also have restrictions on them in terms of their emissions or the noise they produce.

As most access platforms run off an engine lower than 75HP (56kW) the emissions regulations, will not have an impact until next year when engines between 75 and 25Hp (56 and 19kW) must conform. However, in preparation for this and in response to market demands most manufacturers have been addressing the issues associated with emission, noise, fuel consumption and so on for several years.

Prior to Bauma in 2010, Wayne Lawson JLG vice president of sales and field services said, “The increasing emphasis on the availability of greener products becomes more relevant every day. JLG’s product range on display here addresses the need to provide cleaner and more fuel efficient alternatives over traditional, combustion operated machines. These greener solutions, such as the JLG M-series and our wide range of electric-driven products, meet today’s standards of greener working, as well as comply with stringent work-at-height safety regulations and health and safety issues in the workplace,”

Enrique Garcia Delgado, Snorkel’s regional sales manager for Europe said, “Snorkel comfortably met the deadline for Tier IV compliancy, across all relevant products. We have an intern based in our Elwood facility in North America, whose working life is dedicated to making sure that we hit all engine emissions compliance dates. This entails working with Kubota and other suppliers to identify their solution - and then make sure our chassis can accommodate the modified or new engine product. “In short, we have a clear plan and all our larger booms will be compliant.”

Genie too began working with engine suppliers and customers several years ago to ensure that products were ready in time. Jeff Weido senior product manager at Terex AWP said that one of the biggest concerns for both the company and its customers was the additional cost, which might be associated with the new greener engines. The cooperative working strategy has proved advantageous, “We have been pleasantly surprised over the cost,” said Mr Weido, “It has turned out to cost less than was anticipated, which is good for us as a manufacturer and good for customers too. – It was a big concern and rightly so.”

“Other benefits have also emerged, such as the new engines being easier to service,” he said. The Tier IV and Stage IIIB legislation has given a time scale to emission control – but over the last few years manufacturers have been working at reducing pollution and noise and increasing the fuel economy of their machines.

Cooperating with the engine suppliers has, of course been important – some manufacturers, such as Manitou, found that in developing machines to conform to the new regulations they were able to make design improvements throughout.

There are of course other ways of ensuring equipment responds to the prevailing green trends: bi-energy/hybrids machines and ruggedised all electric models, plus there are the aftermarket kits you can fit to some machines to reduce emissions.

Bi-energy/hybrids

With the bi-energy and hybrid machines, we might find ourselves tangled in semantics. A number of machines are available, which are intrinsically electric machines with an on board generator, which charges the batteries when power gets below a certain level. By some these are referred to as bi-energy, by others as hybrid.

The other type of machine referred to as hybrid are those which can be run in electric, diesel or the two in combination depending upon the power requirements of the equipment.

Genie introduced its first bi-energy booms in the 1990s and JLG entered the market in 1999 with the M450AJ articulated boom. Both companies now offer several machines in the bi-energy range.

Niftylift, however, has developed hybrid technology, currently available on the 15m, 17m and 21m Height Riders, which allows the user to run the machine in two modes. Next year the HR28, which was previewed in May will also be available with hybrid technology; incidentally this machine is thought to be the tallest electric boom available in the world.

Niftylift's hybrid technology allows the selection of electric-only or hybrid power during operation. A Tier IV/Stage IIIB compliant diesel engine and electric motor are the basis of Niftylift’s hybrid power plant. The electric only mode provides clean and quiet operation inside and out with zero emissions and an economical diesel engine greatly reduces running costs.

The machine allows the electric motor to automatically assist the diesel engine when required (e.g. climbing a steep slope), boosting the overall power available. This means that the machine can use a much smaller diesel engine (Kubota 722 - 18Hp) than would otherwise be required,which Niftylift says, “Reduces fuel consumption by up to 50% (compared to other machines) and, therefore, greatly reduces running costs.”

As well as being cleaner, the Tier IV engine complies with future changes in legislation meaning that machines fitted with this technology can be used in emissions sensitive locations such as the London Low Emissions Zone without the requirement for expensive exhaust filtration (DPF systems), commonly known as scrubbers.

While there are currently no requirements to fit exhaust cleaning systems to engines of this size, Niftylift is committed to reducing emissions in the working environment and has chosen to fit a catalytic converter particulate filter as standard, further reducing emissions and ensuring the machines carry the ‘greenest’ credentials possible. This benefits the end user and contractor in assisting reducing the carbon footprint of construction and maintenance projects.

The Hybrid’s engine size is optimised for mid rather than peak duty which means much lower fuel consumption. Where peak power is required (typically only 2-5% of the time), the electric motor supports the diesel engine, but at all other times (e.g. low power drive, or boom operation), the smaller, cleaner diesel engine can provide all power requirements.

The Hybrid system also uses an intelligent power control system that constantly monitors power demand. It enables any excess power developed by the engine to be regenerated into charge for the battery pack and stored for later use. Due to its efficient design the 'Diesel Re-Gen' feature can charge the batteries up 40% faster than standard mains power, so the machine can fully re-charge itself in just four hours. This means that a Niftylift Hybrid can potentially work 24 hours a day, using the electric motor to work quietly at night and then re-charge during the day-shift while running on Diesel.

Electric booms

The final category of low emission machines are the full electric drives. Previously considered suitable just for internal work, the increasing ruggedisation is seeing these products gain popularity as 'start to finish' machines on worksites: starting outside then moving inside the building for fitting work.

Lithium ion battery technology is also being used although primarily with tracked platform manufacturers. Hinowa was the leading company with this technology – recently taking it to the next stage with its new generation of machines the Performance range. CTE too is using the technology on its Tracess 170E and is considering rolling it out on its other machines.

Enrique Garcia Delgado says, “Snorkel is already ahead of the game in articulating booms thanks to the A38E, which is all-electric and has many class-leading features.”

“We already offer lower emission power alternatives on many products, including the TL series of trailer-mounted booms; plus pure LPG and diesel/electric bi-energy options on rough terrain scissors.

“Going forward, we are exploring hybrid drive for rough terrain booms and scissors, provided that hybridisation does not bring an unwanted level of complexity to our machines. “

This statement is mirrored by Jeff Weido who says that customers are interested in a full hybrid machine but it is important to do it right, and bring it in at a price acceptable to customers

Aftermarket

Of course an environmentally friendly machine doesn’t begin and end with the engine. JLG gives a few examples of equipment designs and production processes it has pioneered to reduce environmental impact such as catalytic converters, which remove 98% of exhaust impurities.

JLG offers biodegradable vegetable and synthetic oils on its machines; non-hazardous EV Traction dry cell batteries with faster recharging and 99.9% efficient gas recombination. Solid tyres, which last three to four times longer than standard tyres, decrease downtime and require fewer costly replacements as well as fewer tyres going to the landfill.

In a global market, where green credentials still have vastly different priorities in peoples’ lives it is inspiring that those at the forefront of developing technology are committed to developing equipment that has a lower environmental impact and yet still answers the demands of productivity, ease of use economy, value for money and safety.

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