Design Engineering

Mobile machinery fuel consumption cut in half say researchers

By Design Engineering Staff   

General hybrid electric R&D

Finnish R&D lab applies hybrid electric concepts to construction, mining machinery.

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland say they have found a way to cut the amount of fuel consumed by non-road mobile machinery (construction, mining, agricultural and material handling machines) by half. Similar to the system used on hybrid electric cars, the researchers have added an electric power transmission system into the machines.

Unlike hybrid cars, which only capture energy during breaking, work machines create most of their extra energy during work tasks. The Aalto University technology enables short-term energy storage, making it available for later use during a peak in power demand. The Finnish researchers are currently analyzing the work cycles of different types of machinery to find out which work tasks allow energy to be captured. Deceleration and lowering a load are typical examples.

The goal is to reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions as well as lower operation costs. With electric power transmission, the machines may even be connected to normal wall sockets.

“Electricity from the power grid is very cost-efficient and creates no local emissions,” says Professor Jussi Suomela, who is in charge of the project at Aalto University’s HybLab research network in Finland. “If the machine can be plugged in, that is usually the best option. The future is likely to make fuel cells available, too.” In addition, he adds that the machines may eventually be able to release stored electrical energy back onto the grid.


The Aalto hybrid electric system is similar to hydraulic hybrid research currently being carried out by Dr. Monika Ivantysynova of Purdue University for the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP). In her system, hydraulic accumulators store energy during load lowering, which can then be channelled through hydraulic motors to assist with peak duty cycle operations. The Center’s test bed excavator, featured at IFPE 2011 in Las Vegas this past March, also boasts a 50 percent decrease in fuel consumption.


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