Published 15/9, 2017 at 11:30

2017 was an eventful year for the wheel loader industry. A veritable bucket load of new models hit the market with a noticeable shift towards electrically driven machines. Andrei Bushmarin reviews this year’s product announcements.

Avant finally nails electric technology 

Avant Tecno from Finland has been working on electrically driven loaders since 1997. For years, however, the technology remained too expensive for a serial production. The turning point came about two years ago when breakthroughs in battery design made it feasible. Already this year Avant Tecno has released two fully electric models. 

Particularly suitable for indoor applications, these zero-emission and low-noise machines come with the Avant quick hitch system and a multi-connector allowing use of a large range of work tools. Featuring a conventional 240Ah lead acid battery, the Avant e5 offers a good value-for-money ratio. The machine comes equipped with two electric motors, a 6kW motor for driving and a 2kW one for loader boom operation and auxiliary hydraulics. Charging time of the battery pack to 100% capacity is about five hours. 

The other new model, the Avant e6, is said to be the world’s first wheel loader featuring lithium battery technology. It was jointly developed with Valmet Automotive, an engineering company with an extensive experience in designing battery systems for the automotive industry. The lithium-ion battery technology offers 30% increase in performance compared to lead acid batteries. Ability to recharge quickly is another significant advantage of lithium-ion batteries.  The Avant e6 can be recharged from 0 to 100% capacity in just one hour. 

Being about 30% lighter than lead-acid batteries, it provides the opportunity to control the loader’s payload according to a specific task. Both models come with an integrated charging unit, which allows use of any available 230V/16A power outlet. 




Wacker Neuson upgrades its flagship electric model   

The German manufacturer Wacker Neuson has upgraded its battery-powered WL20e model, unveiled in 2015, with a high-quality absorbent glass mat. In a battery of this type, the electrolyte is bound in a fleece made of glass fibre making it a leak-proof system. According to the manufacturer, this technology does not generate heat during charging and operation, resulting in increased electric power output. 

Featuring a 230V on-board battery charger, the electric WL20e boasts the same performances as diesel-powered loaders. With a fully charged battery, the loader can operate for up to five hours, enough for most standard applications. With its compact size of 2.25m high and 1m wide, the machine is suitable for jobs in confined areas. The loader is available either with a fold-down operator canopy or a hydraulically lowering version.



Caterpillar’s electrifying performance at Steinexpo    

Caterpillar used the recent Steinexpo exhibition in German to introduce its first wheel loader with an electric drive system. The new electric Cat 988K XE delivers 25% greater efficiency and up to 10% more productivity in load-and-carry applications than the forerunning 988K model the company claims. Thanks to these characteristics, the manufacturer recommends the 988K XE for demanding jobs where fuel efficiency makes a difference in the machine’s cost of operation. 

The new loader features switched reluctance technology, a C18 ACERT engine, mechanical dropbox, driveline and axles from the standard Cat 988K. A switched reluctance drive motor, generator and inverter are built to last with minimum maintenance. The electric drive design increases engine life by up to 3,500h. 



Hyundai wheels out two new models  

Hyundai Construction Equipment has expanded its wheeled loader range with two new machines. With an operating weight of 20.1t, the HL965 is powered by a Stage IV Cummins QSL9 diesel engine with a gross power of 200kW. The HL965 offers improved loading capacity, with a maximum axle load capacity of 44t at the front and 35t at the rear. Attachments are operated via an integrated electro-hydraulic control lever. Overall visibility has been improved thanks to a revised mirror position. The HL965 has joystick controls for boom, bucket and the third hydraulic line as standard. 

All the models in the HL Series can be fitted with joystick steering as an option. A touch screen monitor and EH controls allow several new features like soft end stop, bucket priority and boom bucket detent mode, to be controlled from the touch screen. The soft end stop operates when an attachment reaches the end of a stroke and a shock free operation by reducing the speed of the attachment near the end of stroke. 

Also new from Hyundai is the HL975 model premiered at Samoter in Verona earlier this year. The 26.5t machine is powered by a Stage IV Cummins QSG12 engine with a maximum power of 250kW at 2100 revs/min. Higher efficiency air handling and advanced combustion enable the QSG12 to return to the simplicity of a wastegate turbocharger without the need for cooled exhaust gas recirculation. Combined with a diesel particulate filter, Stage IV emission levels are reached.



John Deere extends compact range  

In late 2016, John Deere expanded its wheel loader range with two new compact models. The 244K-II loader features a 52kW, Tier 4 Final emission-certified engine that delivers more power over previous models. A stereo steering delivers a smooth turning radius that is up to 20% tighter than rivalling models. 

The 324K compact wheel loader is now available with a high-lift option. This high-lift configuration enables carrying loads without spilling and stability of lighter materials. Both machines feature optional higher flow hydraulics to run heavy-duty attachments, such as snow blowers and cold planers. An optional push-button-activated skid-steer style coupler allows operators to connect and release attachments quickly without leaving the cab. 



Liebherr unveils a new loader concept at Steinexpo  

Liebherr used Steinexpo to unveil its new L 580 XPower wheel loader for mining applications. XPower is an integrated machine concept developed for its large-sized wheel loaders. The concept sets a new standard in machine fuel efficiency, ruggedness and comfort. The power-split XPower travel drive enhances the loader’s robustness and longevity by distributing the load between the two drive paths, which results in extended service life. Another improvement on the preceding models is reinforced axels and hydraulic cylinder. This ensures consistently high and reliable performance of any XPower loader.



Komatsu launches a new all-rounder 

This September, Komatsu Europe announced the launch of the WA200‐8 wheel loader – a versatile model suitable for a wide range of tasks. Weighing in at 11,715 to 12,015kg, the loader is powered by a Komatsu EU Stage IV-compliant engine offering up to 4% saving in fuel consumption due to the new engine controller. The fourth generation Hydrostatic Transmission (HST) helps prolong brakes’ service life while S‐Mode gives the operator maximum control on slippery surfaces. The machine boasts a suite of operator-friendly features including the pillar-less cab offering an unobstructed view, an air-suspended seat, a steering wheel with tilting and telescopic column, an 18cm coloured LCD monitor and a rear-view camera.  The WA200‐8 comes with Komatsu’s proven machine tracking system Komtrax Step 5 for optimised performance and operator comfort. “With the WA200‐8A the goal was to make a machine which would be stable and reliable on any type of surface,” says Dadgar Shayan, Product Manager for wheel loaders at Komatsu. “Also, thanks to its new high lift boom, the machine can load dump trucks with a side wall of over 4m with outstanding stability for its class”. 


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