Latest wheeled loader launches

09 November 2010

This July saw Deere launch its first Interim Tier 4-compliant loader, some five months ahead of dead

This July saw Deere launch its first Interim Tier 4-compliant loader, some five months ahead of deadline.

Next year will see new exhaust emission laws come into force in Europe and the US for 130 to 560 kW diesel engines. This power band covers loaders from about the 3 m3 bucket class right the way up to the top of most company's ranges - there are only a handful of mining machines like Caterpillar's 994 or Komatsu's WA1200 that have engines so big that they are above the upper limit of these laws.

After that, 2012 is the implementation date for 56 kW to 130 kW engines, covering machines down to about the 1 m3 bucket class. The following year will see laws affect 37 kW to 56 kW engines, covering what might be described as compact wheeled loaders

So manufacturers will have to re-design and re-launch their entire wheeled loader ranges (as well as numerous other machines in these power bands) in Europe and the US to comply with the Stage IIIB (Europe) and Interim Tier 4 (US) in the space of the next three years. In the face of that challenge you might expect the market to have been quiet this year.

Add to this the fact that the global market for wheeled loaders is not exactly healthy at the moment. According to Off-Highway Research, the global market for wheeled loaders was well over 205000 machines at the height of the boom in 2007 and 2008, and about three quarters of these were sold in China.

Now of course the situation in major markets like Europe, Japan and North America is much changed, while in China there is still good demand for equipment in general, but there is a shift away from wheeled loaders towards more productive and efficient crawler excavators in many applications. As a result, wheeled loader sales in these territories plus India are only expected to hit about 175000 machines this year - about a -15% decline in the space of just two years.

But despite these two unfavourable features of the market, there have been some significant new launches in the wheeled loader market this year.

The most striking example is Hyundai, which chose April's Bauma exhibition in Munich to unveil a completely new range of wheeled loaders.

The six model 9-series range covers the same ground as the -7A machines it replaces, which is to say bucket sizes from 1.8 m3 to 5.4 m3 and operating weights from 9.8 tonnes to 30 tonnes.

The drive train comprises the familiar combination of Cummins engines and ZF transmissions providing four forward and three reverse speeds. A new feature however is the load sensing hydraulic system which responds to the load placed on it as well as the engine setting (eco, standard or power) and the transmission settings (manual, auto-light, medium or heavy). This all helps to deliver savings in fuel consumption of between -10% and -15% over the comparable -7A model.

In the cab there is an emphasis on operator comfort, good visibility and ease of use with features such as the new dashboard with a second easy-to-read LCD screen (including payload and rear-view camera display), larger glazed areas, fully adjustable steering column and automatic air-conditioning.

Options include a range of seats, joystick controls on the larger models and advanced systems such as bucket auto-positioning, load monitoring (with daily computerised productivity reports), comprehensive self-diagnostic analysis and ride-control.

Also on show at Bauma were the first fruits of the manufacturing alliance between Hitachi and Kawasaki that was announced in October 2008. The deal has given Hitachi new machines that extend its range into larger bucket classes with a 4,5 m3, 5.0 m3 and 6.0 m3 model.

Cummins engines have been teamed with Hitachi's own transmissions, and as these are heavy duty machines, the front linkage is a z-bar design. Other characteristics of these heavy machines are a box-type chassis for torsional rigidity, low mounted lift cylinders, double bucket cylinders and a heavy duty articulation joint

The cab is pressurised to keep dust and dirt out, and it is also mounted on viscous blocks to damp vibration. . The steering column and seat are adjustable, and other aids to operator comfort include an automatic heating/air conditioning system.

The option list includes special modifications to the front end such as high lift arms, a block handling specification and guards for the bucket cylinders. Modifications to the drive system can include limited slip differentials for poor ground conditions and a lock-up torque converter to lower fuel consumption.

New from Doosan meanwhile is the DL 420, a 4 m3 class machine with a 209 kW engine. The machine replaces Doosan's previous DL400 and despite having a bigger engine - a 10.8 litre Cummins QSM 11, compared to the DL400's 8.9 litre Cummins QSL 9 - fuel consumption is -7% lower.

According to Doosan, the larger engine is the key update on the machine, and this is most noticeable in the DL420's acceleration characteristics. It can get up to around 34 km/h in just 2.3 seconds before going on to a top speed of 38 km/h. The operator can also fine tune the ZF transmission via the in-cab LCD display.

Other improvements include a rear view camera as standard and improved vehicle control and engine management systems. Joystick control is available as an option and operators will appreciate improvements to the heating and air conditioning systems, as well as the spacious cab.

Volvo's refinements to its wheeled loader range this year have focussed on its new OptiShift driveline. This is now available on its larger machines, the L150F, L180F and L220F, which cover the 3.0 m3 to 5.0 m3 standard bucket classes. A new torque converter helps reduce fuel consumption by as much as -15% as does the reverse by braking (RBB) feature, which is also designed to correct a poor operating practice.

In short loading cycles it is common to use the gear shifter to change between reverse and forward without applying the brakes, allowing the torque converter to handle the deceleration. This is less efficient than using the brakes, and also puts undue strain on the torque converter. However, the new RBB system recognises if this is happening by the speed, direction of travel and throttle position and automatically applies the brakes to slow the machine. This reduces fuel consumption, cuts wear on the drivetrain and makes for a smoother deceleration.

The main news from Caterpillar over the last year has been the updating of its 988H wheeled loader, a large machine carrying a 6.4 m3 to 7.7 m3 standard bucket and featuring a 414 kW Cat C18 engine.

Big changes include a new hydraulic system that Caterpillar calls 'Positive Flow Control (PFC), featuring an electronically controlled variable displacement pump. This matches the pump displacement to the load on the hydraulics which, along with a new braking system, has contributed to a -10% drop in fuel consumption compared to the predecessor model.

Other fuel-saving features include Caterpillar's fuel management system, standard since 2007, which allows operators to set the machine parameters to match the working conditions. Other systems also cut the engine revs and then shut the engine off if the machine has stood idle for a predetermined time.

New from China

Of course with China making up about 80% of global demand for wheeled loaders this year, the country's manufacturers have also been busy with new launches. Although there are numerous players in the Chinese market, there are as in any sector, a handful of dominant players. These are the former state-owned companies that started building wheeled loaders in the 1960s and 1970s under China's organised economy regime. Although more independent now, it is still the likes of Liugong, Lingong (which Volvo now owns a controlling stake in), Lonking, Chengong and XGMA that dominate the market.

As well as having an iron grip on their home market, these manufacturers are increasingly looking for export markets, and the more advanced companies like Liugong now have several models in their ranges that comply with stringent US and EU regulations.

This year's Bauma exhibition for example saw Liugong launch its 816G and 842III wheel loader models. The 816G is a brand new compact wheel loader designed for the European market with a 0,8 m3 bucket and a 50 kW emissions compliant engine from Yanmar.

The larger 842III meanwhile has a 2.3 m3 bucket as standard and features a 144 kW Cummins engine and semi-automatic ZF transmission. Features include a ride control system that reduces jolting and the amount of scattered material, and the machine also has a reversible cooling fan with the heat sensing system. In the cab an adjustable steering column, single joystick, and adjustable seat also couple with the smoother ride to enhance driver comfort and decrease fatigue.

Liugong vice president for research & development David Beatenbough said, "One of our core competencies is wheeled loaders. We've had more than 40 years to refine the design and engineering. These machines offer exactly what customers need, which is proven technology and incomparable durability. Anyone looking at a wheel loader purchase must look at Liugong. No one knows wheeled loaders better."

First Tier 4

While these are some of the key developments this year, Deere has taken the interesting step of launching its first Interim Tier 4 (IT4) compliant machine ahead of the legislative deadline. July saw the company add the 744K machine to its line-up, a 227 kW machine in the 4 m3 bucket class.

The company is using one of its own 9 litre PowerTech engines, which makes use of an established technology called exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to meet the new emission criteria. This sees a proportion of the exhaust gasses cooled and directed back to the engine combustion chamber. This lowers the combustion temperature and so reduces the formation of nitrous oxide (NOx), a key pollutant.

This is used in conjunction with an exhaust filter that traps particulate matter (PM) - the black soot that is often associated with diesel engines.

There are other technology routes Deere could have taken to achieve emissions compliance, and explaining the decision wheeled loader marketing manager Jahmy Hindman said, "Customers asked us for a simple, proven technology to help them meet regulations that wouldn't skimp on the productivity or durability they're used to in John Deere wheel loaders."

"Because John Deere makes the engine for the 744K, the engine and its EGR emissions solution are fully integrated into the unit, and supported by John Deere dealers everywhere," Hindman added. "This systems integration benefit ensures that the addition of the diesel exhaust filter is transparent to the operation of the machine. Operators notice very little difference between an IT4 unit and a Tier 3."

More next year

Deere has been the first manufacturer to break cover and launch its new generation of loaders, but by the start of next year it certainly won't be alone. Equipment exhibitions like Samoter in Verona, Italy, Smopyc in Zaragoza, Spain and of course the main event, ConExpo in Las Vegas, US are sure to see dozens of new loaders launched.

The new engine technology means they are likely to be more fuel efficient than their predecessors, but there will also be a cost attached to this.

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