The next wave of earthmoving machines
By Helen Wright11 April 2013
There is pressure on manufacturers of earthmoving equipment to comply with strict off-highway diesel exhaust emissions laws in Europe, Japan and North America, but also provide suitable machines for the rest of the world. This challenge looks likely to reach a peak next year with the introduction of the Tier 4 Final emissions laws in North America and the equivalent Stage IV laws in Europe.
With a handful of manufacturers already showcasing their next wave of new Tier 4 Final-compliant earthmoving machines at this month’s Bauma exhibition in Munich, Germany, the global engine technology gap is widening.
The current US Tier 4 Interim/EU Stage IIIB regulations call for a -90% reduction in particulate matter (PM) along with a -50% drop in nitrogen oxides (NOx) from the previous legislation, while the laws coming into force next year take emissions to near-zero levels.
Depending on the engine size, next year’s laws could mean a formidable combination of systems need to be integrated to new engines, including cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR), diesel particulate filters (DPFs), diesel oxidation catalysts (DOCs) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR).
Not only are the new engines more expensive, but the extra components add bulk to the package, which can be a headache for manufacturers trying to accommodate them into already crowded engine compartments.
The past two years have seen most of the big names in earthmoving roll out their Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB-compliant models for sale in North America and Europe – a process that is still continuing.
But the earthmoving sector is a global one, and with the rest of the world at the equivalent of a Tier 3 level or below, many manufacturers have also started producing new lines of machines designed specifically for less regulated markets such as China, the Middle East and Africa, and South America.
Take Caterpillar for example. It is pushing ahead with the launch a US Tier 4 Final/EU Stage IV-compliant wheeled loader this year – the 988K. This machine that is said to offer up to +20% greater fuel efficiency compared to the previous model, but the manufacturer is keeping tight lipped on any other details of the machine’s engine aftertreatment until it has been unveiled at Bauma.
However, at the same time that it is developing Tier 4 Final machines, the company is also rolling out new earthmovers for lower regulated markets. Since the start of the year, it has introduced two new excavators, for example – the 17 tonne class 318 DL Series 2 and the 13 tonne class 312D/D L Series 2.
Both feature Tier 2/Stage II-compliant engines with mechanical governors, while the excavators themselves are designed to be easier to service, with exceptionally robust major structures to make them more durable.
CNH’s Case and New Holland brands will also introduce new Tier 4 Final/Stage IV-compliant earthmovers this year, ahead of the 2014 laws. New Holland’s first Tier 4 Final machines are the 7.5 tonne E75C SR and 8.3 tonne E85C MSR excavators, which use EGR and a DOC to meet the emissions laws.
Case’s Tier 4 Final models so far include the 8 and 9 tonne class CX75 SR and CX80C excavators – machines which also meet the Tier 4 Final emissions standards using EGR combined with a DOC.
But, like other major manufacturers, Case has also introduced new
earthmovers for Tier II markets. Most recently it launched two new F-Series wheeled loaders – the 4 m3 bucket capacity 921F and 5 m3 1121F. As well as the engines, both machines also feature design aspects tailored to work in remote, dusty environments including radiator cooling cubes, which see five radiators mounted to form a cube instead of overlapping.
This design is said to increasing cooling efficiency and reliability, while the cooling system is mounted behind the cab, far from the rear of the machine and from the ground – away from the dust.
Another manufacturer concentrating on both ends of the regulatory spectrum is Doosan, which will continue to update its Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB-compliant range this year. New earthmoving launches with engines that adhere to these regulations include the 25 tonne DX255LC-3, 42 tonne DX420LC-3, 49 tonne DX490LC-3 and 52 tonne DX530LC-3 excavators and the DL200-3, DL250-3 and DL550-3 wheeled loaders, with bucket capacities of 2 m3, 2.5 m3 and 5.4 m3 respectively.
But Doosan is also marketing alternative models for Tier 1 and Tier 2 markets such as the Middle East and Africa. The DL550 wheeled loader is the Tier 2 version of the DL550-3, for instance, while the 48 tonne DX480LCA and 51 tonne DX520LCA crawler excavators are alternatives to Doosan’s Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB-compliant machines in these weight categories, and also intended for markets in the Middle East and Africa.
Both machines are powered by the 238 kW Doosan DE12TIS Tier II compliant diesel engine and share a common design that the manufacturer claims is particularly suited to the specific needs of the Middle East and African markets, combining high robustness with limited electronics and easy accessibility for repair and maintenance work.
Doosan claims that, in the unlikely event of an electronic fault, the design ensures this does not affect the performance of the machine and is easy to repair in the field.
Volvo also concentrates on both highly regulated and emerging markets through its dual brand strategy – it markets both its own machines and those of its Chinese joint venture, SDLG, with more of a focus on emerging markets with the SDLG brand.
Indeed, Volvo claims to have seen a rapid rise in demand for its SDLG branded machines in Latin America and a US$ 10 million new excavator manufacturing line – SDLG America Latina – is being created at the site of Volvo CE’s existing manufacturing complex in Pederneiras in São Paulo, Brazil, to capitalise on this.
Initially four SDLG models of tracked excavators will roll off the production lines, starting from the middle of 2013 – the 13.8 to 24.3 tonne LG6150E, LG6210E, LG6225E and LG6250E machines.
However, as well as producing Volvo-branded machines boasting Tier 4 Interim-compliant engines for highly regulated markets, Volvo has also begun tailoring its own machines to emerging markets. At the Bauma China show last November, it launched the L105 wheeled loader – a maximum 4.5 m3 bucket capacity, 18 tonne category machine that will be manufactured in China and has been specifically developed to suit the demands of Chinese customers.
Hyundai is also adding to its earthmoving ranges for emerging markets and highly regulated markets. It has been busy developing its 9A Series machines that comply with Tier 4 Interim/Stage IIIB-laws as well as launching new Tier II-compliant machinery.
The 9A Series includes crawler excavators up to 120 tonnes and wheeled loaders with bucket capacities up to 6 m3. As well as featuring emissions-compliant Perkins and Cummins engines with EGR and DPFs standard for machines over 130 kW, the new machines feature a number of enhanced features such as electrically controlled joysticks on some wheeled loader models, new operating modes, automatic differentials and touch displays.
On the other hand, the 2.2 m3 maximum bucket capacity SL30 and 4 m3 maximum bucket capacity SL760 wheeled loaders that Hyundai introduced in India sport Tier 2 compliant engines and the design focus has been more on robust structures, enhanced reliability and efficient maintenance systems.
Other earthmoving manufacturers have focussed on markets outside of the highly-regulated North American, European and Japanese regions. China’s XGMA, for example, has this year added to its H Series of wheeled loaders with the XG935H, a 1.5 to 1 m3 bucket capacity machine for sale throughout Asia, the Middle East, Russia, Middle and South America and Africa.
XGMA said the H Series range could be tailored to the needs of different regional overseas markets. For South America and the Middle East, the loaders are designed with a small turning radius for better flexibility and efficiency.
For Russia, the engines are available with a cold start function for performance in extremely cold conditions, while models sold in South East Asia can feature extended dump heights of up to 2.8 m to meet special agricultural demands.
XGMA has four subsidiaries located in Hong Kong, UAE, Ethiopia and Europe. In the latter, it has built regional logistics and service centres in Bulgaria, Spain and France. The manufacturer said it also aimed to set up a new subsidiary in Brazil in the future.
But it takes time to build up service networks, and the emissions laws in Europe, North America and Japan are certainly playing their part in raising the barrier of entry for new competition.
Indeed, many believe the pressures of not only supplying Tier 4 Final machines but servicing them too, as well as supporting demand in the rest of the world, will result in big changes for the construction equipment industry as a whole.
Yanmar Construction Equipment Europe managing director Jean-Marc Reynaud summed the situation up. “The emissions regulations will really be a game changer for the industry. Look at the value chain – it is very fragile in terms of profit. But we all have to adapt, and manufacturers from Asian countries must also adapt if they want to sell into Europe, for instance.
“But it’s not as simple as just swapping engines – when you bring in a DPF, the question is how do you adapt your service proposal to customers to clean it? This is where your network becomes very important, and it will be a challenge for some to build a service network from scratch.”
There is also a looming issue concerning the second hand market for Tier 4 Interim and Tier 4 Final-compliant machines. Their highly sensitive engine components cannot cope with high sulphur fuel, and will simply break down if used in countries where fuel quality is low. This has an obvious impact on where the machines can be used, and while this may not be an issue for the initial buyer, it could be a factor when selling a machine on.
Although some years down the line, this is an issue that the industry needs to be thinking about now as it clearly affects the residual value of these new machines.