We live in fast changing times. Where once it was enough for the big plant manufacturers to squeeze every last ounce of efficiency out of their diesel engines while cutting down their emissions to the minimum, we are now on the way to net zero. Emissions-free alternatives are the order of, if not the day then the day after tomorrow at least. These are our choices of game-changing new products that will be turning heads in 2023.
It seems like everyone is going electric and some are looking ahead and adopting alternative fuels to diesel and this is engendering a boom in new machinery which is steadily increasing in scale. However, it is not just electrification that is driving us forward, there are other new technologies gaining a foothold and improving the lot of the humble operator. From machine control to remote control and even autonomy, skills are being democratised and retained in the software while approaches like augmented reality are ensuring quality is consistent. Here we take a look ahead at 20 new products that are at the cutting edge of this revolution in our UK Plant Operators 20 Products for 2023 guide.
1. 20 ton electric excavator
The fact that electric excavators are now starting to encroach into the upper end of the mid-range is demonstrated by Komatsu’s recent product launch. The company has collaborated with US company Proterra to electrify small and medium-sized hydraulic excavators including a 20-ton class electric hydraulic excavator equipped with a lithium-ion battery system supplied by Proterra. Since January 2021, the two companies have been jointly developing electric medium-sized hydraulic excavators and have been conducting proof of concept tests on advance research machines at customers’ construction sites. The machine is scheduled to be introduced to the Japanese and European markets in 2023.
It integrates Proterra’s lithium-ion battery technology which has a proven track record for use in heavy-duty and commercial vehicles, with Komatsu’s components, such as the hydraulic pump, controller, and electric motor. In addition, Komatsu has developed a robust cage structure to provide additional protection for its battery packs. As a result, it has achieved digging performance and durability equivalent to those of engine-driven hydraulic excavators. In addition, the high energy onboard the excavator’s Proterra Powered battery system enables operation for up to eight hours when fully charged.2. Second-generation electric loader
Volvo CE says its zero-emissions L25 Electric wheel loader is building on its proven commercial performance with a host of upgrades that ensure further versatility, greater operator comfort and increased uptime.
Already demonstrating a reliability for matching superior strength with near-silent operation and zero exhaust fumes, the compact electric wheel loader is now being upgraded to ensure even greater versatility on the job site. The option to fit a new Parallel linkage, especially suited for medium-duty cycles and pallet-handling applications, will serve as a compliment to the existing Z-type one – delivering high breakout torque – but now for even more applications. And with an increase in the maximum speed up to 20 kph, the L25 Electric can move to the next jobsite much quicker.
The time it takes to achieve a full charge from zero is now halved to only six hours with the improved 6 kW on-board charger – if used with a 400V 16A CEE socket or public charging station. Speedier charging is always still available with faster off-board chargers 9.6 kW and 17.3 kW. And if combined with the newly launched Electric Machine Management Application (EMMA) customers can further boost uptime by keeping track of charging status, battery level and machine location, helping them to manage the charging process more efficiently.
3. Sany expands into telehandlers
Sany’s new STH1440 and STH1840 telehandlers represent the Chinese company’s entry into the telescopic handler market. Equipped with well-known European primary components and with a cab designed and engineered in Europe they have a rated capacity of 4-tonnes and are powered by Stage V 55kW Duetz 3.6 TD engines for optimum performance and low fuel consumption.
The new machines have safety firmly in focus, their ROPs and FOPs fully certified cabs allow the operator excellent 360° visibility along with rear-view camera and sensors for visual and audible warnings. LED work and roof lighting, precise load management system and operator present safety switch also help to complete the safety package.
4. Thwaites goes electric
Thwaites has entered the electric machines field with an all electric three-tonne dumper. The company says the machine was designed with contractors and hirers in mind, offering the same build quality, robust design and engineering excellence that is ubiquitous across the Thwaites range. The three-tonne electric machine will be an advanced concept machine with the go-to-market version available in 2023.
Thwaites general sales manager, Andy Sabin comments: “As the demand for cleaner alternative fuel sources grows, we are keen to ensure we offer a quality product that delivers for our customers, their clients and the environment.”
Four maintenance free, long-life, lithium-ion (dry-cell) batteries, operating at 48V, are fitted. Each battery is rated at 5.75 kWh, providing the power to drive the machine. With two highly efficient electric motors (one for traction, one for the hydraulic services) giving the operator the control and manoeuvrability expected from a Thwaites dumper.
The electric drive dumper has a similar unladen weight when compared to the diesel/hydrostatic version. The main battery pack and driveline components, now sit low in the rear chassis, lowering the centre of gravity when compared to the hydrostatic drive machine, further improving machine stability.
Thwaites says the battery pack will complete a full eight-hour shift of `normal site operation’ from a single charge. The standard on-board 3.4 kW battery charger can charge the pack from 0-100% in eight hours. Optional off-board chargers rated at 7 kW (single-phase) and 22 kW (three-phase) have charge times of four and two hours respectively.
5. A new name with decades of history
When Motherwell, Scotland-based articulated hauler specialist Terex Trucks rebranded as Rokbak last year the company stressed its strong hauling heritage with a future-focused vision. “Our company has an incredible history and a proud heritage,” said MD Paul Douglas at the company’s relaunch. “Seven years ago, we became a member of the Volvo Group, which allowed us to make major improvements in every part of our business. Millions of pounds have been invested in improving our products, modernising our facilities, expanding our network, and developing our people. It has been a process of continual evolution. That’s why we feel it’s right to recognise this evolution with a new brand name to launch an exciting new chapter in our history. And we’ll keep investing to further improve our machines for our customers.”
The significant investments and improvements in the company’s articulated haulers in recent times have ensured they remain among the most robust and reliable machines around. Now, with their foundation in the predecessor models from Terex Trucks, the 28-tonne payload RA30 and 38-tonne payload RA40 from Rokbak are the most productive and efficient articulated haulers the company has ever made.
6. Autonomous haulage milestone
Global plant giant Caterpillar has reported that it has surpassed five billion tonnes of material autonomously hauled in less than 10 years. According to Cat, nine months after reaching the four billion tonne autonomously hauled milestone, trucks equipped with Cat MineStar Command for hauling have now moved over five billion tonnes. Cat autonomous trucks are on pace to eclipse previous record totals of materials hauled in a calendar year, projected to be more than 1.4 billion tonnes in 2022.
“Caterpillar has grown the number of autonomous trucks in operation by 40% in the past two years,” said Denise Johnson, group president of Caterpillar Resource Industries. “We believe that automation is one of many keys to implement technology that unlocks the value miners need when it comes to the energy transition toward more sustainable operations.”
Marc Cameron, vice president of Caterpillar Resource Industries, adds: “The new Cat 798 AC electric drive trucks replacing BHP’s entire haul truck fleet at the Escondida mine will feature technologies that advance the site’s key initiatives, including autonomy and decarbonisation. The agreement allows Escondida | BHP to accelerate the implementation of its autonomy plans by transitioning the fleet with autonomous haulage system (AHS) technology.”
7. Remote control for excavation
Cat 349, 352, 374 and 395 large hydraulic excavators can now be equipped with Cat Command for Excavating. The remote-control system removes operators from potentially hazardous jobsite conditions by keeping them at a safe distance, and it reduces potential safety risks from climbing on and off machines.
The Cat Command station allows for non-line-of-sight remote control, where users can comfortably control all basic machine functions like digging, lifting and tracking. Additionally, Caterpillar technologies like Cat Grade with 3D for Excavators, Grade with Assist for boom and bucket, Swing Assist, E-Fence, and others can be set, activated, and used remotely.
The technology helps improve machine productivity on various projects like operating in unstable underfoot conditions, brownfields, shore work, and demolition. It also allows production to restart immediately following disruptive processes such as blasting in quarry applications.
By removing the operator from the cab, Cat Command for Excavating also offers a solution to workforce shortages and training advantages for newer operators. It opens opportunities to those with physical limitations that prevent them from climbing into the equipment, attracting a new generation of workers, and increasing the longevity of experienced operators.
8. The machine control revolution continues
Liebherr’s new Generation 8 crawler excavators offer higher performance as well as increased productivity and comfort for the operator. The R 928 crawler excavator also impresses with high traction, outstanding lifting force, as well as a large capacity bucket. The operating weight of less than 30 tonnes was optimised with the aim of making the transport logistics between the operation sites as easy as possible.
The R 928 can be offered with the factory-installed, semi-automatic machine control from Leica Geosystems. This assist system for machine control is the key for precise and efficient work. The strategic partnership between Liebherr and Leica Geosystems announced in March 2020 makes it possible to make available the know-how of both companies to customers and provide even more advanced and reliable solutions. Factory-installed 2D and 3D machine controls will be available in future for Generation 6 and 8 Liebherr crawler excavators and wheeled excavators as options.
9. The world’s first electric track loader
Bobcat says its T7X is the world’s first all-electric compact track loader. Powered by an advanced lithium-ion battery, the T7X features a fully electric drive system in place of a traditional hydraulic work group. It is built with about half the parts and components required for a diesel-engine loader, driving down maintenance and overall operating costs to levels never reached before.
Producing zero emissions, the all-electric platform offers instantaneous power with no need for a hydraulic system to build up power. The T7X offers an exceptional operator experience with drastically reduced noise and vibration, making it ideal for indoor worksites as well as urban areas where noise restrictions can limit work hours.
10. Doosan gets Smart
Doosan has launched the new DX225LC-7X – the company’s first ‘Smart’ crawler excavator, which it says is designed to help operators work faster and more efficiently. To facilitate this, the DX225LC-7X offers a number of new features as standard, including Full Electric Hydraulic (FEH) technology. FEH is similar to Doosan’s VBO (virtual bleed off) system. The FEH is a VBO without pilot pressure lines. The joysticks and pedals are fully electric, but give the operator the same feeling as hydraulic joysticks.
FEH sends an electric signal to the controller and as such is more precise and provides faster information. Back pressure and energy loss are therefore eliminated, by delivering the exact amount of oil needed. As it doesn’t have pilot pressure, it saves energy and fuel. In fact, FEH offers a very significant 8% less fuel burn compared to the VBO system. This is on top of the 7% decrease in fuel consumption already achieved in the standard DX225LC-7, compared to the previous DX225LC-5 model.
11. More control for tiltrotators
The latest offering from Rototilt – Rototilt Control – promises better operability, increased energy efficiency and new technology in the cab. The concept, which involves a new tiltrotator series, a new control system and an app for remote support, was launched at Bauma.
“Demands for new technology, operability and user friendliness are growing ever higher. Rototilt Control is our response to the growing needs we are witnessing on the market,” explains product manager Caroline Jonsson.
The common theme for all upcoming product launches is, as the name Rototilt Control suggests, control for the excavator operator. For Rototilt’s tiltrotator set-up, the RC series entails greater precision in the utilisation of the tiltrotator’s functions.
“All the features you like in the existing control system remain, but we have basically developed brand new software and a new display, and adapted them for the excavators and integrations of the future. The RC Connect app is an extension of our investment in more accessible service, in combination with new technology in the cab,” explains Caroline.
The upgraded tiltrotators will be available for owners of excavators weighing between 10-43 tonnes.
12. Hydrogen – the fuel of the future
Earlier in 2022 JCB announced that it had developed the construction industry’s first hydrogen powered excavator. The 20-tonne 220X excavator powered by a hydrogen fuel cell had been undergoing rigorous testing at JCB’s quarry proving grounds for more than 12 months. JCB claimed that the development meant that it was the first construction equipment company in the world to unveil a working prototype of an excavator powered by hydrogen.
“The development of the first hydrogen fuelled excavator is very exciting as we strive towards a zero carbon world. In the coming months,” commented JCB chairman Lord Bamford. “JCB will continue to develop and refine this technology with advanced testing of our prototype machine and we will continue to be at the forefront of technologies designed to build a zero carbon future.”
Power for JCB’s prototype excavator is generated by reacting hydrogen with oxygen in a fuel cell to create the energy needed to run electric motors. The only emission from the exhaust is water.
In order for hydrogen-powered machines to be viable they need to be backed-up with the infrastructure to deliver the fuel. JCB announced in October that it had unveiled another world first for the industry – a mobile hydrogen refueller.
The mobile hydrogen refueller, provides a quick and easy way for customers to refuel their machines on site. Around 97 per cent of construction machines have fuel delivered to them while working on site. This means customers are already used to a transportable fuel, allowing refuelling to take place in a matter of minutes.
“Fossil fuels are not the future and hydrogen is the practical solution to powering our machines in the decades to come,” said Lord Bamford. “Our British engineers are doing a fantastic job in developing this technology and there are many more exciting developments to come.’
13. Manitou goes electric too
Manitou Group is also adding to its range of compact machinery with the launch of its first 100% electric compact telehandler. The MT 625e, with a capacity of 2.5tons and a height of 6 meters, guarantees performance as good as the internal combustion version and is the same size. Fitted with a 25 or 33 kWh lithium-ion battery, this model reduces maintenance by 56% and drastically reduces the total cost of ownership for the user. Perfect for indoor or city centre use or for renovating historic buildings, the MT 625e benefits like all the models in the compact telehandler range from the Safety Pack and the Harmony screen for safe and easy use.
14. Hitachi extends electrics range
Hitachi Construction Machinery has announced that, against the background of a growing need for electric equipment in the European market, the company has launched a full lineup of battery-powered mini and compact excavators in the 2, 5, 8 and 13-tonne class.
Contributing to zero emissions at construction sites, Hitachi released the ZE85 (8-tonne) in 2020 and started the preordering process for the ZX55U-6EB (5-tonne) in June 2022. In addition to these two models, two battery-powered excavator prototypes (2 and 13-tonne class) developed by European Application Center GmbH in Germany, a joint venture company established by Hitachi Construction Machinery and a subsidiary of its European distributor Kiesel, were presented to the public for the first time at bauma, bringing the total number of electric models on display to four.
The main feature of the 2 and 13-tonne class prototypes developed by EAC is their combined use of battery power and a commercial electricity supply while maintaining the same workload as engine-powered models. Long operating hours are achieved by this use of battery power in conjunction with a commercial power supply. Additionally, the 2-tonne class prototype has the same outside dimensions as an engine-powered mini excavator of the same class and can work efficiently in confined spaces due to its short rear-end swing design.
15. Award-winning minis
Hyundai Construction Equipment is updating its mini / midi excavator offer, with the launch of a comprehensive range of EU Stage V machines. With operating weights of 1.7 to 5.5-tonnes, the A Series mini excavators will deliver lower emissions, increased hydraulic capabilities and improved operator comfort.
The introduction of these models will complete Hyundai’s range of 11 compact excavators, from the smallest 1.0-tonne HX10A micro, through to the versatile HX85A, which competes in the 9-10 tonne segment when equipped with a two-piece boom.
As part of the new range, the HX35A Z, the HX40A and the HX48A Z have been recognised as winners of the Red Dot Design Award, from Design Zentrum Nordhein Westfalen in Germany. Centred around the Tiger Eye lighting theme at the rear of the machines, the excavators have also been praised for their eco-friendly features and ease of operation. All Hyundai mini excavators benefit from an EU Stage V compliant diesel engine, reducing exhaust emissions and boosting fuel economy for the customer.
16. The HVO alternative
While net zero might be tantalisingly close in some sectors of the industry, in others there is a way to go yet. One option to bridge the gap is to use a ‘drop-in’ alternative to diesel like hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) which can offer CO2 reduction of up to 90%.
Demolition specialist Rye Group has recently invested in an HVO-powered Sandvik QJ241 mobile jaw crusher from Retec Equipment Ltd, Sandvik distributor for the Southern counties. In line with the rest of the company’s fleet it uses HVO rather than diesel. Rye Group was the first SME demolition company in the UK to transition its entire fleet to HVO as a key initiative in its sustainability drive. Likewise, Sandvik was the first in the industry to roll this out for its tracked range of mobile crushing and screening equipment back in 2021.
Sandvik was first in the mobile crushing and screening industry to start using HVO in 2021 and has been shifting over to supplying all its hydraulically driven units with HVO instead of diesel, allowing for a reduction in CO2 by up to 90% when operating.
HVO is a form of renewable synthetic diesel, its acronym standing for ‘hydrogen-treated vegetable oil’. Forming a part in both company’s journey towards a more sustainable future, the use of HVO reduces net carbon emissions by up to 90% compared to conventional diesel. HVO can easily be used as a drop-in replacement fuel on all mobile Q-Range models.
Simon Barlow, managing director of Rye Group said, “Through years of operation we have refined our ways of working and are focused on continual improvement and making a positive impact on all our stakeholders.”
Rye Demolition transferred its entire fleet of plant and machinery to HVO, replacing diesel, thus eliminating in the region of 1,700 tonnes of CO2. They have committed to purchasing 600,000 litres of HVO fuel over the next year, allowing them to transition, not only their site plant and machinery, but also road vehicles, away from diesel.
17. Yanmar’s first electric mini – the SV17e
Yanmar Compact Equipment has a well-deserved reputation for delivering fuel efficient and sustainable engine technology. About a year ago, the company applied its engine and mini excavator expertise to the field of electrification with its first electric mini excavator prototype: the SV17e which officially hit the market at bauma.
“Our aim, together with our dealer partners, is to build stronger relationships and create even greater customer value,” said CEO, Giuliano Parodi at the time. “Our transformation will embrace our entire business and will encompass new products with alternative fuel technologies. The SV17e prototype is a clear demonstration of our intent to build a sustainable business for our customers and dealer partners.”
The SV17e is a mini excavator aimed at customers in the European market and plays in the 1.5 to 2.0 tonnes segment. Powered by efficient electric drive and hard working 48-volt batteries with fast charging capability, it’s a quiet, zero emission machine designed to meet the most demanding emissions restrictions.
“Our prototype is significant because it demonstrates our capability to bring the quality and reliability of our highly respected conventional engine technology into the arena of electrification” explained director product management EMEA, Cedric Durand. “But we have gone further. As always, the operator is at the heart of this machine, and we have challenged ourselves to deliver the comfort, power, control and precision which we believe will surpass the expectations of professional operators.”
18. Kobelco’s demolition giant
Kobelco boasts that there is literally no job too big for the its SK1300DLC. With an operating weight of 130 tonnes and a colossal reach of up to 40m, the SK1300DLC is currently the world’s largest OEM manufactured building demolition machine. Its introduction to the European market in March 2022 was met with high expectations due to its superior productivity, versatility, easy transportation and the ability to use more powerful crushers at new heights.
The SK1300DLC is a common base-type machine. However, the integration of the Kobelco-developed NEXT ADVANCE system means that it can be adapted for multiple applications on the jobsite, including high elevation demolition projects as well as breaking up building foundations.
The NEXT ADVANCE 4-piece high reach demolition attachment was developed to achieve greater working heights with heavier tools; the new articulated structure enables a heavy tool to be elevated while keeping the machine’s centre of gravity low. This makes it possible to overcome the current operational limits of other 100 tonne-class machines. With a maximum pin height of 40m, the ultra-high reach attachment can accommodate a crusher capacity weight of 4.3 tonnes, while the 35m boom configuration can support even larger crusher weights of 5.2 tonnes. A 3-piece high reach attachment is also available with 35m and 31m configurations, accommodating crusher capacity weights of 5 tonnes and 6.1 tonnes respectively and enjoying a larger working reach.
The separate boom configuration allows fitment of even larger crushers of up to 12 tonnes, which can be used for powerful processing of material at ground level, or to tackle deeper sub-grade foundations.
19. Universal, vendor-agnostic construction equipment battery
Wacker Neuson, Bomag, Mikasa, Swepac and Enarco say they are now offering mutually compatible, interchangeable batteries and chargers for construction equipment. Batteries and chargers are being marketed under the Battery One brand.
“The availability of a multi-vendor interchangeable battery for construction equipment is key to the growing adoption of electromobility on building sites,” maintains Stefan Pfetsch, managing director of Wacker Neuson Produktion GmbH. “Compatibility provides huge benefits for the customers. We see demand for battery-operated equipment growing all the time. With Battery One, we make it easier for customers to go electric – in particular to switch from products that were previously powered by conventional drive technologies.”
“Battery One’s compatibility across different brands and products will further increase the penetration of electric equipment and the sustainability of battery lifecycle management on construction sites,” added Ralf Junker, president of Bomag GmbH. “Together with our customers, we are helping to make construction sites around the world more environmentally friendly.”
20. A dumper revolution
Mecalac says operators can now rotate the entire dumper cab at the touch of a button to keep their vision and focus on the job and a view of potential obstacles on the site. The company says its Revotruck makes material transport smarter and safer.
According to Mecalac almost one-third of transport accidents on construction sites occur on dumpers. This is mainly due to the front load obstructing visibility when driving forward, exposing drivers to major accidents. Alternative products such as reversible dumpers have attempted to solve this problem for a long time by proposing rotating driving platforms. However, Mecalac says it has observed that operators always stay in the same position without using the rotating platform.
Based on a user-centric process, Mecalac has created a new type of vehicle for smarter and safer material transport. “This revolutionary development is named: The Revotruck. The Revotruck is not just a dumper; it is an iconic machine with a rotating cab and an exclusive chassis architecture that combines stability and mobility.”