Technology Enhances Wheel Loader Performance



Wheel loaders are being introduced with some advanced technologies that allow equipment operators and owners to work more productively, efficiently and safely. Owners and operators can save money by decreasing downtime, maintenance, fuel and operation costs, and, via data, to make better decisions when it comes to equipment operation and project management.


Hydrostatic Transmission

A hydrostatic transmission consists of an entire hydraulic system: It contains a pump, two hydraulic motors and a gearbox. Power is generated and transmitted by fluid flowing through a specialized system. This type of wheel loader is equipped with a constant velocity (mechanical) gearbox that is connected to two hydraulic motors — a low-speed and a high-speed motor. A variable displacement pump attaches directly to the engine and provides the hydraulic flow to accelerate or decelerate the machine.

If more torque is needed, especially in heavy digging applications, both the low- and high-speed motors will receive flow. This provides low-speed, high-torque output from the motors. When the demand for higher torque decreases and speed increases, the system automatically transfers the flow to the higher-speed motor. This provides higher speed output with lower torque for improved machine performance.


Hydrostatic wheel loaders have several benefits including improved fuel efficiency because of improved performance at lower engine rpms; enhanced machine position control to increase productivity, especially when climbing a pile to fill the wheel loader's bucket; and low heat development in the digging range. In addition, they have fewer moving parts compared to torque converter transmission-style wheel loaders, which makes servicing the machine easier.


Lock-up Torque Converter

Another well-established power transmission technology commonly found in wheel loaders is torque converter. Though hydrostatic transmission is simpler and has fewer moving parts, it generates more heat than torque converter transmissions at higher speeds and in demanding applications. Hydrostatic is generally better in short run applications, while torque converters work better for longer runs.


Lock-up torque converters are a type of converter that has a clutch. The engagement of this clutch causes the engine to lock to the transmission input shaft thereby leading to a direct 1:1 drive ratio. Lock-up torque converter gives the operator more gear selections to keep the engine in its best power range, increasing fuel savings at roading speeds and improving acceleration and hill climbing. The torque converter lock-up technology can remarkably promote the power performance at high speed, the fuel economy and the working efficiency of loader.


Electrohydraulic Controls and Electric-over-hydraulic Controls

Electrohydraulic controls are the building blocks of many time-saving technologies. Electric-over-hydraulic controls allow the operator to have less fatigue in operation, more consistent operation with their hand controls and the increased performance of their machine based on operator input. Having electronic controls ultimately helps to eliminate operator fatigue and makes operation of the machine more efficient and increases productivity.


Today's wheel loaders are built with a variety of electronic modules and control functions throughout the machine. Electronics have paved the way for many features such as selectable work modes, return-to-dig, return-to-travel, ride control – all of which can be set inside the cab.


With the help of the electrohydraulic (EH) system, lift arm and bucket positions can be programmed to reduce the operator's workload. Automatic Bucket Leveling allows the operator to self-level the bucket without having to manually manipulate the bucket position. Another feature is the Boom Kick-Out, which is beneficial to operators if operators are loading a truck to one height all day long. The operator just performs one stroke of the lever rather than having to hold the lever. To assist with returning the bucket to a set level, there is Return-to-Dig feature, it is a feature that can at least get the bucket level to the plane of the tires to go into the pile. These features are excellent for making operation smoother and helping to reduce cycle times.


Telematics

Telematics are a feature on many machine categories, including wheel loaders; it allows for remote monitoring and remote machine diagnostics. It allows fleet managers to remotely monitor the operating hours, loader location, fuel usage, engine idle versus work time, engine and hydraulic temperatures, system alerts, error codes, performance reports and status conditions.


The wireless exchange of electronic information for fleet monitoring – gives loader owners powerful analytical tools to improve security, maintenance, utilization, job costing and productivity. All kinds of detail can be accessed by computer or smartphone, pumping out daily, weekly or monthly reports, or in some cases real-time live data.


In addition, telematics allows dealers to provide improved customer support by responding to machine warning messages and alerts, troubleshooting machine issues, and then sending a field service vehicle to help with repairs and deliver the proper parts.


Hybrid-Electric Drivetrain

The integration of hybrid components for wheel loaders can positively impact the environment as well as improve fuel savings, reduced maintenance, lower repair / rebuild costs and increased productivity.


A growing demand for machines that cost less to operate, together with regulatory pressures for lower emissions, are leading loader manufacturers to electric and hybrid drives over traditional hydraulic and mechanical ones. Manufacturers are replacing traditional mechanical and hydraulic systems in construction gear with hybrid-electric drives that improve efficiency and lower operating costs. New hybrid and battery technologies allow equipment to capture kinetic energy that was previously wasted as heat or, in some cases, cut or totally eliminate diesel fuel consumption.


Hybrid-electric drivetrain utilizes electric traction, meaning the engine drives a generator to create electricity used by electric motors to drive the wheels. This provides significantly increased fuel efficiency, reduced tire wear and increased durability and reliability through fewer moving parts. Hybrid-electric drive smoothly and efficiently recaptures energy to slow the loader when the operator lets off the accelerator. This lessens the load on the engine and reduces fuel consumption along with quieter operation