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Deutz shows glimpse of the future with electrified loaders

Addressing the press with its ambitions for a sustainable and carbon neutral future, engine manufacturer Deutz also revealed its new electrically driven loader concepts.

 

Alex Heath reports...

Global engine powerhouse Deutz has embarked on the electrification of its product portfolio. Branded e-Deutz, the company plans on having products for sale as soon as 2020.


Following the acquisition of fellow German company Torqeedo, specialists in electric propulsion in the leisure boat industry, the company is using the recently acquired technology to test full electrical and two hybrid drive systems. Recognising the global shift in emissions and fuel efficiency awareness, the engine manufacturer is testing prototypes of the two alternative drive systems, aiming to equip the technology to agricultural vehicles which already feature its diesel burners within the next two years.


A brace of both Manitou and Liebherr telescopic loaders have been equipped with a hybrid system and fully electrical system, with little difference in performance, according to Deutz.

 


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Key to the success of the project, especially regarding the hybrid system, is the modular design the system uses. Theoretically any machine that features one of the company’s 3.6-litre diesel engines could have it removed and have a 2.2-litre or 2.9-litre hybrid unit put in its place, with minimal wire and pipe rerouting. This is a strategic move from Deutz as it will open the opportunity for a broad range of machinery manufacturers to use the Deutz systems, instead of having to develop their own.


At present all the systems Deutz is developing use the host vehicle’s hydrostatic or mechanical drive, however, electric wheel motors are in development and the next logical step on this journey. Integrating these into the machine will be a harder challenge for the company, as it will require them to sell the complete package to a manufacturer, rather than just a motor.

Loader developments

Deutz has specifically chosen to test its technology on telehandlers for several reasons. The varied workload these machines carry out, especially on farms and construction sites, which differ in terrain and conditions make it the perfect vehicle to be the host to test the tech. Also, the power requirement to drive and operate hydraulic functions will push the systems and give the company an idea of the capacity they have.


Two Liebherr 432-7 telescopic loaders have the new systems fitted, one running the ‘mild’ hybrid system, the other fully electric. The two Manitous also run different systems and are construction-spec machines. A MT1135 is kitted out with a fully electrical system while the larger MT1335 gets the mild hybrid tech.


The mild hybrid system uses a 2.2-litre diesel engine putting out 74hp (55kW), which is attached to an intermediate flange gear with integrated clutch. This distributes power to the loader’s functions and an electrical generator which charges a 10kWh battery buried in the rear of the machine. The system runs at 48 volts. If extra grunt is needed, the battery feeds a 27hp (20kW) electric motor which feeds into the flanged gear to provide the power boost. The system can be run for short periods on pure electric power, but loader functions are very much limited as the electric motor is not large enough to run everything at once.

Loader developments

A fully hybrid system, more akin to a diesel-electric setup as found in trains, is still under development, but will use the company’s 2.2-litre block to just run a generator. This generator will feed a larger battery, possibly up to 30kWh, which will feed an 80hp (60kW) electric motor which will power all the loaders function.


The fully electric version is where Deutz sees the biggest area of prospective growth, as the technology is deemed suitable in the telehandler and could be adopted in a multitude of different applications. It is also the system that Torqeedo has had the biggest input, with battery and motor design ques coming from them.


Most notably different in the external appearance to the fully electric machines is the giant power pack slotted underneath the cab and engine bay of the loader. This 30kWh battery gives only a few inches of ground clearance, but is only at prototype stage at the moment. In the future, it is conceivable that the battery will get smaller and be built into places such as the rear counter weight or where the fuel tank is. Like the full hybrid machine, an 80hp (60kW electric motor powers the drive line and hydraulic pumps. The system runs at 360 volts, and Deutz sees the unit being of interest to farms and enterprises that are producing their own renewable energy from solar panels or AD for instance.

Loader developments
Loader developments

Remaining from the previous engine are the radiator and hydraulically driven fan, for cooling the engine bay and hydraulics, another electrically driven fan has been added for cooling while recharging. Inside the engine bay are a series of boxes containing computers and all manner of other gizmos to keep the loader running.

So how do they drive?

In a nut shell, just like a normal telehandler. The only discernible differences are in the electric machine; there is no noise or vibration from the engine, but it is not eerily quiet as might be expected. Instead the usual whine from the transmission is still there and the drumming of tyres on tarmac is also still noticeable. In the hybrid machine, the comforting chatter of an engine is present, and the change in power delivery is not noticeable. In fact, for many operations the little four-pot engine manages fine and would be ideal for material handling, with its claimed frugal fuel consumption.


The only time the electric motor kicked in was with aggressive stamping of the throttle, and when lifting the boom while moving. Deutz has also developed an app which links to the engine bay and gives a visualisation of where the power is being directed.

So how do they drive?
So how do they drive?
So how do they drive?

The Deutz strategy

Deutz has nailed its colours to the mast in this latest move, indicating that the renewable and alternative energy sector is its future. While the company acknowledges there will not be a complete evacuation from the diesel market by all sectors, particularly agriculture, they do see the need in other industries to get as near CO2 neutral as possible. By 2022 Deutz expects 10 percent of its revenue to come from the electric and hybrid sector.

 

Areas within agriculture where it sees the electrification process being of interest include orchards, yard dwelling vehicles and municipal tractors. The company says it currently sees no incentive to electrifying big tillage tractors as most of the time the electric systems would not be as efficient as their diesel counterparts. However, this could change as the technology mature, in terms of electrical efficiency and battery size and capacity.

 

Deutz also sees a future in renewable fuels, and is actively developing engines and systems to utilise them. Hydrogen, bio-diesel, multi-fuel and synthetic fuels are all being analysed currently to determine if there is viability for these going forward.

Who are Torqeedo?

Who are Torqeedo?

Torqeedo are a start-up German company, specialising in producing drive systems for the leisure boat industry. Its product portfolio includes in-board and out-board motors and battery systems, producing between 0.5kW to 200kW. It is currently the largest seller of electric propulsion systems globally and also claims to have the best technology and performance in the sector.

 

Before the €70million (£64.8million) takeover by Deutz in September 2017, the company relied on capital venturists to provide the necessary funding for research and development.

 

The company has since been fully integrated into the Deutz family, sharing facilities in Cologne, Germany, and knowledge sharing ongoing between the two companies.

 

Ambitions for the future continue to focus on the marine industry. Development of a 200kW-plus motor is a priority, as is creating river ferries targeted at cities such as London and Bangkok. However, collaborating with Deutz to roll out its land-based electric propulsion technology will in the short term be the company’s biggest commitment, with Deutz wanting the tech commercially available in the next two years.

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