Volvo CE (Construction Equipment) has been busy testing its new LX1 prototype electric hybrid wheel loader. The firm claims that it has achieved a dramatic improvement in fuel efficiency, compared to its conventional counterparts.
Volvo presented the 'field' test results for its prototype hybrid loader in California, US, earlier this week. Since the end of last year, the LX1 has apparently performed "hundreds of hours of real work in California".
Testing began at a landfill and recycling facility in the northern part of the state. Both fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emission tests were conducted and, although the data is still being analysed, the results so far reportedly show an average improvement of 50% in fuel efficiency.
During a second extended test, at a waste transfer facility - the LX1 reportedly achieved an average fuel efficiency improvement of around 45%. Both sets of results "exceed the 35% fuel efficiency improvement target set for the project".
"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."
According to Volvo, operators at the facilities provided "valuable feedback". Young explained: "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."
The California Energy Commission provided over $1.8 million of funding for the LX1 project through its Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program. The programme invests up to $100 million per year to support advancements in alternative, renewable fuels and the vehicles powered by them.
The LX1 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.
As well as the claimed improvement in fuel efficiency and reduction in emissions, the LX1 is also said to offer a significant reduction in noise pollution compared to its 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, according to Volvo.
"Volvo CE has long-term plans to develop products and services for 'electromobility', including electric hybrids and electric sites," concluded Young.
"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."