Researchers at Aalto University have found that using hybrid engines in heavy duty machines such as diggers, cranes and combine harvesters can halve fuel consumption.
— These heavy duty machines are operated for long periods of time, so by the end of the day emissions and fuel consumption have added up, says Professor Jussi Suomela, who is in charge of the project at Aalto University’s HybLab research network in Finland.
— Being able to target them is a significant improvement.
The researchers installed an electric power transmission system into heavy construction equipment to capture energy that is otherwise lost. They say the machines effectively become hybrids with both combustion and electric engines.
Similar technology has already proven successful in cars but hybrid cars only capture energy from wheels during deceleration while work machines create most of the extra energy during work tasks. This energy has not been captured until now.
The team is now working to identify which tasks are the most effective for recovering energy. The technology enables short-term energy storage, making it possible to store energy for later use during a peak in power demand.
Reducing fuel consumption cuts operating costs as well as carbon dioxide emissions. The electric transmission also leads to better controllability, operator comfort, efficiency and more freedom in the machine structure.
— Electricity from the power grid is very cost-efficient and creates no local emissions, says Suomela.
— If the machine can be plugged in, that is usually the best option. The future is likely to make fuel cells available, too. And the benefits do not stop here: the machines are even able to release stored electrical energy back into the grid.