The key factors in the next 20 years in the off-highway industry lie in reducing emissions to meet regulations, increasing comfort-levels for drivers, and increasing vehicle performance.
It’s not just the common automotive industry that is being affected by emissions regulations, the makers of off-highway machines and equipment are also under pressure to improve emissions ratings. Emissions are linked to fuel consumption and efficiency. Reducing fuel consumption is important but so is increasing the efficiency of not only the engine itself but many components and systems from heat exchangers to hydraulic systems. Reducing losses and optimizing performance will influence the overall vehicle’s efficiency. Fluid systems and thermal management simulations using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) contribute to better operating performance of all related components and systems.
New hybrid systems for energy recuperation have reached the market already and their numbers are expected to grow in the future. Hybrids are influencing fuel consumption and are contributing to reduction in total cost of ownership. For example, the Pactronic hybrid drive of the Liebherr HS 8300 HD Hybrid duty cycle crawler crane reduces fuel consumption and emissions significantly while increasing the hoisting and lowering speeds and reducing noise exposure.
There is still enormous potential in reducing losses and emissions in other systems of off-highway machines and equipmnt. Besides reducing emissions, meeting the increasing requirements for comfort, especially with regard to noise and thermal comfort in the cabins of the operators, is challenging OEMs. Engineers are being tasked to design better working conditions in a more comfortable environment that will enable operators to be more focused and reduce dangerous situations and errors.
Regardless of all emissions reductions and hybridization, increased performance is still required and cannot suffer under these trends. The workload for such machines is not becoming less—customers want to do more in less time, carry bigger loads, load and unload faster, etc. At the end of the day it all comes back to the definition of power and performance, which is the rate at which work is performed.
An additional challenge is increasing competition from the Asian market. The Chinese and Japanese OEMs provide lower or nearly equal quality products at lower prices, forcing western OEMs to offer higher value, lower emissions products by increasing quality, performance, and comfort. Depending on the customers’ requirements, OEMs have to meet their needs or lose to the competition.
It’s a thin line between using the best technology to achieve these demands and still staying within the budget of the customers. But thermal simulation and analysis is an investment in the future, reducing expensive test runs and prototypes needed to try out new technologies and helping to find the optimum performance of a component or system.
Roland Feldhinkel, GM of Mentor Graphics Mechanical Analysis Division, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering.