Hitachi's mini makeover

By Murray Pollok28 February 2013

All the new minis have larger, brighter cabs, with arm rests and an LCD control monitor.

All the new minis have larger, brighter cabs, with arm rests and an LCD control monitor.

Hitachi is not alone in promoting fuel efficiency in its latest excavator models, but in the case of its latest range of mini excavators, it is not new Stage IIIB engines that are leading to savings but the use of electronic engine controls with Stage IIIA power units.

The five new ‘dash-5’, short tail-swing models in the 3 to 6.5 tonne class size – the ZX33U-5, ZX38U-5, ZX48U-5, ZX55U-5 and ZX65USB-5 – are all under the 37 kW size, so don’t require IIIB engines. However, Hitachi has worked with its engine supplier Yanmar to add electronic control units (ECU) on the engine governor, more precisely controlling the supply of fuel.

The ECU was previously only available on the 60US-3 model, but has been fitted to the entire -5 range, resulting in significantly lower fuel use – around 21% lower in the case of the ZX33 and 15% on the ZX38-5, compared to the previous -3 models. The lower fuel use is triggered when the operator chooses the ECO power mode, which is now a simple push-button control.

The introduction of the ECUs reflects demand from customers, says Joep van den Maagdenberg, assistant manager for mini excavators sales & support for Hitachi Construction Machinery Europe (HCME); “It’s an example of using developments from our mid-sized machines on smaller models. We hear from the market that that is what they want on a Hitachi.”

The introduction of electronic engine control is just one aspect of a wider overhaul of the range, encompassing the cab, dimensions and ease of use.

Imported from Japan – where the machines became available late last year – the five dash-5 excavators now offer a much more comfortable cab. “Operator comfort is a big step forward”, says Mr van den Maagdenberg, “it’s brighter, has more space, more foot space and better visibility.”

The front window is larger (113 mm higher and 55 mm wider), the entrance door is now a single piece rather than the folding door used on the previous models – which improves visibility – and the step into the cab is 5 cm lower. The wrist rests for the controls have been replaced by full armrests, and the air conditioning system has been improved, including a pressurised cab with a 20% increase in the effectiveness of the sealing system.

A new multi-function LCD monitor on the right hand side of the cab is standard on the range, and includes for the first time a clock, the ECO power mode button and a CAN communication fault alert. Optional auxiliary function levers can be placed either on the right or left hand sides, or on both.

Another new feature, again optional, is the inclusion of an accumulator to ease depressurising when changing attachments, or to get the boom quickly to the ground in an emergency.

The machines are also more compact than their predecessors. The overhang over the crawlers falls in all five machines: by 16 mm on the two smallest models, by 13 mm on the mid-range machines and by 49 mm on the 65USB-5.

These five machines represent around 35% of the European market, in unit terms, so the new range is important to Hitachi.The sub-3 tonne segment is equally important, and Mr van den Maagdenberg says these machines will also receive a dash-5 redesign within the next two years. The current range are dash-3 models, except for its 10U, 17U and 22U machines which are still dash-2, which perhaps provides a clue as to which models will get the makeover first.

Mr van den Maagdenberg says he sees caution in Europe’s rental market, with a real different in the environment between the South and the North. That same caution is evident among the region’s largest rental players, he says, although he also notes a closer relationship between suppliers and rental companies; “They are much more open than 10 years ago - then there was a distance, but now there is much more interest in the added value that each brings, which is a huge step forward.

“We are not forced to be with each other, we are in a situation together and by combined effort we can manage to further improve the business.”

One example of how Hitachi could help its rental customers is in the provision of finance. “You need to be creative with finance”, says Mr van den Maagdenberg, “we are studying this. I think everybody is.”

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