Caterpillar has introduced its first electric drive wheel loader to the North American market.

The 988K XE was unveiled during the company’s end-of-year press briefing in Edwards, Illinois on Nov. 15. Compared to the 988K, the new 988K XE boasts a 25 per cent increase in overall fuel efficiency.

“It’s the first wheel loader we’ve offered with a high-efficiency electric drive, and it joins our industry leading 988K and 986K,” said Bob DeLange, Caterpillar Construction Group President. “We now offer the most cost-effective loader choice for every application, giving customers a wider range of options, so they can choose the design that best fits their needs.”

Cat 988K XE electric driveWhile overall fuel efficiency increases by 25 per cent, the increase jumps to 49 per cent in face-loading applications.

The lower consumption of fuel is attributed to the electric drive, improved eco-mode, removal of the torque converter and lower high-idle rpm. At high idle, the 988K would run at 1,860 rpm with the XE rpm drops to 1,600.

“Less rpm is less fuel,” said product application specialist Todd Tuntland.

As well, the 988K XE offers a 10 per cent boost in overall productivity in load-and-carry applications.

“That’s because the XE will actually accelerate faster than the standard 988K. The cycle times are quicker,” Tuntland said. “It’s also very smooth and responsive. With this electric drive system, you get instantaneous torque to the ground.”

The electric drive technology found in the new wheel loader lowers overall maintenance costs and increases engine life expectancy by up to 3,500 hours.

“We’re putting less fuel through this system and engine life goes up,” Tuntland said.

The 988 XE requires 40 per cent less powertrain oil, while oil change intervals increase to 2,000 hours.

“We were doing every 1,000 hours on a power shift, we’ve extended it to 2,000 and also matched the filter,” Tuntland said.

The loader is built with switched reluctance (SR) technology, leveraging Cat’s 15 years of electric drive experience. The SR drive motor, generator and inverter are built to last through the second engine life with minimal maintenance.

“The components, generator, inverter and motor are match to two times engine life,” Tuntland said.

The loader offers a single speed range, allowing the machine to operate without the need for gear shifting. New virtual gears help to control machine ground speed and deliver smooth direction shifts.

The 588 hp Cat C18 ACERT engine, mechanical dropbox, driveline and axles from the 988K remain in the electric drive loader for consistent operation.

“We still leverage the C18 engine we have on the 988k, but we took the generator, inverter and motor for our powertrain, the torque converter and transmission came out,” Tuntland said. “Effectively this was a transmission replacement.”

The 988K XE offers a range of bucket capacities from 4.7 to 13 cubic metres. Rated standard and high lift payload for the loader reaches 11.3 tonnes when working with face material and 14.5 tonnes with loose material.