Volvo tests hybrid wheel loader

Volvo hybrid wheel loader
Volvo CE's LX1 prototype electric hybrid wheel loader at Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center.

A prototype hybrid wheel loader from Volvo Construction Equipment is promising up to a 50 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency.

On July 12, Volvo released six months of field test results for its LX1, a hybrid electric wheel loader.

In California, Waste Management conducted hundreds of hours of real-world testing on the machine. As well, CALSTART was recruited to conduct emissions testing of the machine. To assit with development, the California Energy Commission provided more than $1.8 million in funding for the LX1 project.

At the Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center, the LX1 recorded average fuel efficiency improvements of 50 per cent. As well, the wheel loader reduced fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 35 per cent.

In a similar manner, the wheel loader was used at the Moreno Valley Transfer Station. There, the LX1 achieved an average fuel efficiency improvement of about 45 per cent. Initially, Volvo had set a fuel efficiency improvement target of 35 per cent.

“Although we’d already seen the LX1 reach up to a 50 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency in our internal tests, every application and operator are different,” said Scott Young, Volvo’s director of electromobility. “Because of this, we were aiming for a 35 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency in this project. We are happy to say that we’ve significantly exceeded this figure. And we’ve achieved similar results to those recorded at our test site in Sweden.”

Hybrid testing

Waste Management is North America’s largest environmental services and recycling company. It operates one of the largest fleets of Volvo CE equipment in the world. Before testing the LX1, the company ran a conventional machine at both sites to gather baseline data.

“Three experienced operators from Waste Management, who were trained and supported by Volvo CE engineers, carried out their daily work with the LX1 and provided us with valuable feedback,” Young said. “Their response was positive. They liked the dramatic reduction in noise, improved visibility over the rear of the machine, ease of operation and powerful hydraulics.”

Furthermore, the operators also provided Volvo with possible improvements to consider for the wheel loader. Comparatively, their feedback includes improving functions like traction control as well as gear shifting.

“The machine will be shipped back to Sweden for updates and tuning based on what we learned,” young said. “At this stage, the LX1 is still part of a development project and it is not commercially available.”

Demand for efficiency

In addition, the LX1 incorporates electric drive motors mounted at the wheels, electric driven hydraulics, a battery energy storage system, a significantly smaller diesel engine and new machine architecture. This combination enables substantial gain in fuel efficiency. As well as improvement in fuel efficiency and reduction in emissions, the LX1 also offers reduced noise pollution compared to conventional wheel loaders. Volvo claims the prototype, which has 98 per cent new parts and a fundamentally new machine design, is capable of doing the work of a wheel loader that’s one size larger.

“Volvo CE has long-term plans to develop products and services for electromobility, including electric hybrids and electric sites,” Young said. “Our customers want improved efficiency now.”

Meeting the demand for efficiency requires a balance in technology development activities, Young notes.

“Therefore, we are also optimizing more conventional technologies and soft offers which will compete with hybrid technology,” He said. “Before we launch a machine like the LX1, you can expect to see elements of this design incorporated into our products.”