Working Machines Go Electric

Environment-friendly solutions and green values are rapidly becoming increasingly important all over the world. As a result, various instances are also placing increasing demands on working machines.

States and cities implement their own environmental measures, carried out and followed by various actors. Typically, for example carbon dioxide emissions and noise are regulated in large cities, or at least in the city centres. According to these regulations, work carried out late in the evenings, during the night, or in the early morning hours may be allowed only if the working machine does not run on a combustion engine. Harbours and airports also have their own regulations that may entirely prohibit the use of combustion engines on the site. In most cases, the machine has to be able to work mainly with power generated with electric batteries.

Profound Changes on Several Industrial Sectors

Several smaller working machines have already for a longer time been available in different electric and hybrid versions. On the overall consumer markets, it can be said that these products are already all but self-evident. Electrification is, however, not a trend affecting only consumers and their preferences. The phenomenon can already be seen on several industrial sectors.

“My work and projects at Huld have given me an opportunity to follow up with the electrification of several industrial sectors. We are an independent actor, which enables us to help machine manufacturers to find the components that meet their individual needs. The manufacturer of the machine makes the final decisions according to their objectives. The saying “Strength in Unity” is key in our line of work, also when tackling the challenges of electric development,” says Pasi Hangasmäki, who works as a power line specialist at Huld.

Electrifying marine traffic, for example, is a work still in process after 10 or more years. The work started with electricity implemented in smaller vessels such as short-distance ferries. Today, many passenger ships run on battery power, and even the largest cargo ships partially use electricity to power up the functions.

Forest machines, such as harvesters, can also be found in effective versions based on supercapacitor technique. These machines do not have actual batteries. Instead, energy is charged and discharged in fast cycles to level out variation in workloads. In addition, tractor trailers also come in electrified models where power takeoff itself rotates the generator. Consequently, traditional cardan shafts are no longer needed.

In recent years, electrification has also been a raising trend in the car industry. It is not commonly known, however, that even heavier vehicles such as trucks and lorries come in hybrid and fully electrical versions that completely lack a diesel motor. The development of battery technology is therefore a most positive phenomenon. Even the most heavy-duty machines will become more cost-effective with the introduction of electric batteries.

What Does the Future Entail?

Electric motors and batteries are expensive components. In the future, machine efficiency will definitely be optimized more closely. With an improved efficiency ratio, it is possible to build smaller batteries, leading to savings in total weight. With a lighter-weight battery combined with an improved efficiency ratio, it may be possible to achieve and build even smaller electric motors. This helps the manufacturer to control the costs.

Computer modelled systems and simulations are an especially effective way to support product development aiming at electrification of working machines. Hydraulic flows can be optimized with the help of new technology and production methods. The development of metal 3D printing has reached such high quality as to make the prints applicable in increasing extents also in critical targets. Temperature plays an essential part in improving the total efficiency ratio of the product, as well as in controlling the battery lifetime. The future lies in digital hydraulics and direct-drive hydraulic cylinders. Evidently, we are about to witness a significant change in how these new technologies are implemented in the years to come.