Oct. 23, 2012 at 1:03 PM ET
The construction site is about to get a shade greener thanks to the introduction of a digger with hydraulic hybrid technology that can cut fuel use by up to 25 percent.
The digger is an upgrade to Caterpillar’s workhorse 336E, an excavator found filling dump trucks at construction sites all over the world.
The new 336E H uses a patented hydraulic hybrid system that stores and reuses energy over and over as the arm swings up and down during operation, such as digging a cellar for a new skyscraper and dumping dirt in the back of a truck.
The arm captures and stores swing-brake energy in accumulators and releases the energy during acceleration, Caterpillar explains in a news release.
The technology makes for about a 25 percent less fuel consumption compared to the non-hybrid model. Payback for the added cost, Caterpillar noted, could come within a year assuming today’s fuel prices and heavy use.
Hybrid technology has been used in diggers since at least 2008, when Komatsu introduced its first hybrid excavator model. The company also has an electric-hybrid forklift.
The addition of more players to the field is welcome news to both an industry that is heavily impacted by fuel costs and a planet facing continued disruption to its climate from increased greenhouse gas emissions.
The operation of excavators, graders, backhoes and other heavy machinery in the construction industry accounts for about 0.35 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to Komatsu.
The construction industry emitted 66.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That figure is expected to dip slightly in 2012 and then rebound to 90 million metric tons by the end of this decade at stay in that elevated range through 2035.
The dip is likely attributed to a slowdown in the global economy. In earnings released on Monday, Caterpillar slashed its 2012 forecast and warned the global economy was slowing faster than it expected.
A slowing economy means fewer construction projects and thus lower greenhouse gas emissions from the industry, regardless of how fuel-efficient their diggers are.
Caterpillar said it expects the global economy to turn around in the second half of 2013, just in time for the first shipments of the 336E H. If the economy grows as anticipated, more fuel efficient diggers can help curb the pace of rising greenhouse gas emissions.
– via Earth Techling