With deep roots in delivering cutting edge equipment and technology for the construction and mining industries, Komatsu’s approach is underpinned by a desire to create a thriving and sustainable future for its customers and the industry.
Charles Wheeldon, General Manager, Construction & Utility says Komatsu’s electrification journey dates back to the 1950’s, when the company’s first diesel electric wheel loader was launched.
“Innovating in this space is in our DNA, and as we look to the future, we’re excited to keep bringing new technology, and new machines to our customers that will work smarter and harder, while not impacting productivity or profitability,” Wheeldon says.
Hybrids a popular choice
In 2008, Komatsu introduced the world’s first hybrid hydraulic excavator in response to climbing fuel prices at the time.
The 20-tonne hybrid excavator was also the company’s first commercial scale solution.
This marked the beginning of extensive growth in Komatsu’s electrification venture and portfolio.
Wheeldon says appetite is still strong for hybrid machinery on Australian worksites, with 190 now operating in the region, and over 5000 units globally.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest from our construction customers, especially those working on major Tier One projects, looking to invest in hybrids for their fleets. The Komatsu hybrids are highly productive and reliable machines that also help our customers to align with ESG requirements contractually on site,” he says.
“These units perform just as well as our conventional excavator, with similar high production outputs and power, while saving anywhere from 20 per cent – 40 per cent on fuel consumption depending on the application.”
A step up
After a successful overseas launch of its three-tonne PC30 fully electric mini excavator and 20-tonne PC210 electric hydraulic excavator prototypes at bauma 2022, Komatsu’s gearing up for a big year in 2024.
“These prototypes are a great indicator of where we’re taking electrification and when fully commercially launched, we’re expecting to see some great uptake with our customers adding them to fleets right across the country,” Wheeldon says.
“While there is some hesitation around the infrastructure and technology needed to charge the machines on a construction site, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.
“We are working towards solutions to make these a viable addition to fleets.”
Wheeldon adds that while electrification is a big forward focus for the industry, Komatsu’s track record in the space stretches back decades.
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“Many people were surprised to be reminded that we’ve had electric machines in market for over 20 years,” he says.
“It’s truly exciting to see industry really picking up the pace now on adoption of electric equipment, and to be able to continue to expand the range of machines we offer with electric power, without compromising on productivity.”
Electric machines are quieter, producing less noise and vibration.
This means the machines can continue to operate on noise restricted sites and operators are more comfortable resulting in less impact on the body.
Komatsu is also working towards zero exhaust emissions and significantly reducing noise and vibration.
Its excavators will deliver the same powerful digging performance and high operability as engine-driven excavators.
“There’s also a huge benefit in the reduced maintenance requirements and operating cost of electric machines,” Wheeldon says.
“Electric components require little to no regular maintenance, and fewer moving parts and fluids result in significant maintenance cost and time savings.”
“There’s a lot happening in the design areas of the business, and customers can expect more electric machines and technologies to be released soon.”
Along with its construction machinery, customers will see advancements in Komatsu’s mining technology as it looks to support that sector towards a net-zero future.
Komatsu’s strides in electrification have already yielded impressive results.
The company has sold over 1300 electric drive trucks in Australia and over 380 electric mining excavators globally, with demand continuously increasing.
“At a time when we’re seeing skills and resources shortages, and pressure to comply with ESG guidelines, the electrified machines in our development pipeline have never been more important,” Wheeldon says.
This article was originally published in the February edition of our magazine. To read the magazine, click here.