Profit versus the environment

12 August 2009

There is a fine line when it comes to choosing cost savings over the environment. One way both can be obtained is through separate engines for the chassis and upper works on a mobile crane. This is increasingly occurring on smaller capacity machines. Euan Youdale reports

Profitability is the name of the game for any crane user, but pressure is building on operators and manufacturers to provide solutions that reduce environmental impact.

Manitowoc uses two engines on its TM500E-2 and TMC540 truck cranes. Both are 40 tonne capacity, with the latter making its first appearance at April's Intermat 2009 exhibition in Paris, France. The new GSK55 city crane, again introduced at Intermat, also has two engines. A 104 kW Iveco engine is supplied on the truck carrier to power all crane functions, including the outriggers. It is then towed by a standard truck tractor with its own engine.

There is also a two engine design on all Grove all terrain cranes from the 100 tonne capacity GMK4100 upwards.

"Innovations are all generally related to the latest engine legislation, currently Tier III for the US and Euro IV for Europe. There is a move toward greater fuel efficiency and lower emissions, and both of these characteristics are found in the latest engines for our cranes," says. Ruben Olivas, global product manager for truck cranes, boom trucks and industrial cranes.

Emission control

In its upperworks, the TM500E-2 has an 82 kW Cummins QSB 3.3 litre four cylinder water-cooled diesel engine. In the carrier is a 224 kW Cummins ISC07 six cylinder turbo charged engine. The TMC540 has the same engine as the TM500E-2 in its upper works. In the carrier it has a Scania 6-cylinder diesel engine with Exhaust Gas Recirculation for emission control. It produces 265 kW (360 hp).

"There are some requirements, such as the ability to run on ultra-low sulphur fuel, that are already demanded in places such as California and, we think, these requirements will spread into the future. To take account of this we are already offering engine options for our cranes," says Olivas.

In 2005 the manufacturer introduced the National ENVI, a special version of its 690E boom truck. It runs on biodegradable diesel and has vegetable-based oil in the hydraulic system. "We developed this crane after speaking with customers that had a need for cranes to work in environmentally sensitive areas. It remains a relatively small volume crane but our customers know that we have the capability to innovate as the market's needs change."

Driving force

Olivas explains that the environmental issue is driven mostly by governments. "We see countries in Europe and the United States, Japan, Australia and others pushing for more environmentally-friendly construction equipment. From our customer base the driving force is containing costs. They are looking for better fuel economy from their cranes to allow them to run a more competitive business."

Marcello Maestri, export manager at Italian mobile crane manufacturer Marchetti, said the decision to add an extra engine on to its new 60 tonne MTK 60 truck crane was driven partly by cost and the environment. The design allows the upper works to be separated completely from the chassis, meaning operators to use their own domestically acquired chassis. The crane can also be operated without the chassis, using its outriggers.

"In the north pollution is the driver, while in other places cost saving is more important. But either way it has convinced us to do it that way," Maestri adds.

Another reason was the price of fuel, which stood at an all time high when the MTK 60 was on the drawing board.

"A lot of customers asked for smaller engines and double engines. We were not prepared to put them on existing machines but we were already at the end of the project for this one," explains Maestri, "It's a growing trend and cranes on commercial vehicles are becoming more and more popular every day because of the restrictions, such as road regulations."

Truck crane rise

Maestri is convinced that truck cranes will become more popular in Europe in the next few years - a consideration that will not be lost on Manitowoc with its new truck crane launches at Intermat.

"I am not saying that they will take over from ATs but they will have a high presence in the market place. There are many reasons for this, two being fuel consumption and cost of maintenance. When you have to change a tyre, it's a commercial tyre," adds Maestri.

According to Peter Issitt, managing director at UK Zoomlion dealer Crowland Cranes, decisions are always based on cost savings when it comes to purchasing a new machine.

There are no Zoomlion cranes with two engines under 70 tonnes capacity, as it would not be worth the expense or environmental saving, says Issitt. Above that capacity, the Zoomlion truck crane range, up to the maximum 220 tonnes, has two engines.

Issitt believes that running a four cylinder engine for the upper works is not hugely different from running a six cylinder engine to power the whole machine. "The main engine is not that high powered in the beginning, while on a larger capacity five axle crane you can see that it is worth it. You would have to run that crane a long time to save with those two cylinders."

High standards

Speaking about crane users, Issitt says their main requirement is for European emission standards to be met. Environmental concerns head their list when it comes to choosing a piece of equipment, especially in these difficult financial times, adds Issitt.

"We run a rental fleet and people want to save money. When it comes down to it customers won't pay more for an environmentally friendly crane, as long as it is fit for purpose. The current economic situation will take away any focus on environmental issues. Whether that's right or not, it is fact."

Issitt explains that smaller companies are more adversely affected in an economic downturn and do not have the resources to invest in the environment, whether it be crane related or in the workplace, for example, recycling.

Crowland has 35 employees. "If we had employees standing around doing nothing and then we started spending money on environmental issues, we would have a riot on our hands."
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