Komatsu launches hybrid excavator in North America

Marcia Gruver Doyle Pix

Starting off a seven city tour , Komatsu America today announced the North American debut  of its Hybrid PC200LC-8 excavator at its training facility in Cartersville, Georgia. This is a different type of hybrid: instead of batteries, Komatsu is using its proprietary electric swing motor, combined with a power generator motor, capacitor and diesel engine, to power the 20-ton machine. With this new hybrid, Komatsu is claiming fuel consumption reductions of 25 to 40 percent.

Here’s a snapshot of how it works: The kinetic energy generated during the swing braking phase is converted to electricity that is sent through an inverter and then captured by what Komatsu calls an Ultra Capacitor, which provides both fast energy storage and instantaneous power transmission. This captured energy is then discharged quickly for upper structure rotation and to assist the engine as commanded by the hybrid controller when accellerating under work conditions.

Taking a cue from automotive hybrid manufacturers, Komatsu’s 7-inch LCD monitor in the cab shows exactly how the hybrid system is working, diagraming the energy flow through the hybrid components. It also shows fuel consumption using your selected time element: minutes, hours, days.

Instead of the 6-cylinder engine the company uses in its standard PC200LC-8, the hybrid unit has a 4-cylinder diesel, allowing it additional space for the hybrid components.

Because there’s such a different operator feel to the hybrid, Komatu knows North American operators will need to be convinced that the different engine noises don’t mean a loss of power.  (See video below.) It will have 10 demonstrator hybrids in North America, plus conduct introductions in Chicago, Cinncinnati, New York City, Houston, California and Montreal, as well as at Komatsu’s training center in Cartersville, Georgia. “We targeted areas that have emission concerns,” says Erik Wilde, vice president, marketing, Komatsu America.

The company already has 180 hybrid excavators operating in Japan, plus aother 500 units in China. In those markets, the hybrid comes with a 50 percent premium, but Komatsu is will determine later what the North American market will bear.

Click to view video: komatsu-hybrid