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Volvo hybrid loader shows 50% fuel savings in field tests

13 Jul 17 Volvo Construction Equipment is claiming substantial savings in fuel consumption for its LX1 prototype electric hybrid wheeled loader

The hybrid loader has been put through hundreds of hours of real-world testing in California and achieved around a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency compared to its conventional counterparts, Volvo says.

Volvo Construction Equipment presented field test results for its LX1 prototype electric hybrid wheeled loader at a press event in California on 12th July 2017. The field tests were carried out by Volvo customer Waste Management and Calstart conducted emission tests on the machine. The California Energy Commission helped fund the LX1 project.

The LX1 is a series hybrid that incorporates a driveline that consists of electric drive motors mounted at the wheels, electric driven hydraulics, a battery energy storage system, a significantly smaller diesel engine and new machine architecture. It is this combination that enables the substantial gain in fuel efficiency, Volvo says. As well as the improvement in fuel efficiency and reduction in emissions, the LX1 is also quieter than conventional counterparts. The prototype – which has 98% new parts and a fundamentally new machine design – is capable of doing the work of a wheel loader that’s one size larger.

Testing began at Waste Management’s Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center, a green waste composting site in the northern part of the state. Both fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission tests were conducted at the facility and, although the data is still being analysed, the results so far show an average improvement of 50% in fuel efficiency, equating to a reduction of 35% in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

A second test site was the Moreno Valley Transfer Station, a waste transfer site in southern California. Here, the LX1 achieved an average fuel efficiency improvement of around 45%. Both sets of results exceed the 35% fuel efficiency improvement target set for the project.

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“We are pleased with the results from the field testing,” said Scott Young, electromobility director at Volvo CE. “Although we’d already seen the LX1 reach up to a 50% improvement in fuel efficiency in our internal tests, every application and operator are different. Because of this, we were aiming for a 35% improvement in fuel efficiency in this project. But we are happy to say that we’ve significantly exceeded this figure and achieved similar results to those recorded at our test site in Sweden.”

Waste Management operates one of the largest fleets of Volvo CE equipment in the world. Before testing the LX1, the company ran a conventional machine at both sites to gather baseline data. “Three experienced operators from Waste Management, who were trained and supported by Volvo CE engineers, carried out their daily work with the LX1 and provided us with valuable feedback,” said Scott Young. “Their responses were positive, they liked the dramatic reduction in noise, improved visibility over the rear of the machine, ease of operation and powerful hydraulics. But they also gave us constructive feedback on areas we can refine, such as improving functions like traction control and gear shifting, actions that will enhance operability. Now we’ve concluded the field tests, the machine will be shipped back to Sweden for updates and tuning based on what we’ve learnt over the last six months. At this stage, the LX1 is still part of a development project and it is not commercially available.”

He added: “Volvo CE has long-term plans to develop products and services for electromobility, including electric hybrids and electric sites. Although we believe that there will be a major shift towards electric hybrid technology in the future, our customers, quite rightly, want improved efficiency now. This requires a balance in our development activities. Therefore, we are also optimizing more conventional technologies and soft offers which will compete with hybrid technology for some years. Before we launch a machine like the LX1, you can expect to see elements of this design incorporated into our products. This supports short and mid-term developments and requirements while the market continues to accept hybrid technology, technology improves and the cost of new technologies decreases.”

The California Energy Commission provided US$1.8m of funding for the LX1 project through its Alternative & Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. “The Energy Commission is pleased to invest in projects like the development and demonstration of Volvo’s LX1 electric hybrid wheel loader,” said energy commissioner Janea Scott. “Demonstrations like these help improve the viability of cleaner, less polluting technologies for near-term market adoption in California’s commercial goods movement, transit and other sectors.”

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