How the excavator market is rallying in a post-covid world
04 November 2021
Crawler excavators are peerless when it comes to heavy earthmoving applications, but the operator experience is also a driving force behind the latest models, as Mike Hayes discovers
Being seen as pure workhorses, whether it be on construction sites or in quarries and mines, has not prevented the world’s biggest excavator manufacturers from taking design leaps to make them more eye-catching, more environmentally friendly and more comfortable.
They have good reason to put in some overtime on these giants of construction; for one thing, sales in Europe this year are expected to surpass the previous high set in 2019, as the rebound from the Covid pandemic gathers pace. This according to specialist market research and forecasting company Off-Highway Research.
Furthermore, in 15 of the largest markets in Western Europe, sales are expected to reach 31,400 machines this year, marginally ahead of the previous high tide mark of 31,200 units sold in 2019. This would represent a remarkable 23% rebound from the Covid-affected sales level seen in 2020 – and demand is forecast to move even higher in 2022, with sales expected to exceed 32,000 units.
Off-Highway Research managing director Chris Sleight said, “Demand for equipment in general – and crawler excavators in particular – has been robust this year as contractors and rental companies alike renew their fleets in response to high workloads and the anticipation of more to come from the various stimulus spending plans around Europe.”
He added, “We believe sales this year would have been much higher had it not been for the supply chain constraints and shipping difficulties which have been widely reported. This particularly affects crawler excavators because a high proportion of the machines sold in Europe are imported from Asia.”
Excavator supply chain issues
Supply chain issues are clearly hampering equipment manufacture, but the excavator show must go on, and Doosan recently launched its DX245NHD-7, a 25 tonne heavy duty excavator built with 30 tonne undercarriage components to increase its lifespan and allow it to take undertake rugged applications.
The machine is powered by a Doosan DL06V diesel engine, providing 131kW at 1800rpm.
Doosan says the engine offers a new solution to exceed Stage V regulations, without the need for exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). The technology boosts the air during combustion, raising the temperature and reducing the volume of particulates produced.
The manufacturers says a combination of this design and efficient after-treatment technology increases the maintenance interval of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) to around 8000 hours.
The new excavator is designed with the increasing use of tiltrotators in mind and features a 5 tonne standard counterweight, which also aids with increased lifting and digging capabilities.
Doosan says the DX245NHD-7 also features a smart hydraulic system that promises a 30% improvement in attachment work, compared with predecessor models. A new Tiltrotator mode is also standard, optimising the hydraulic flow and eliminating back pressure for more accurate tiltrotator control.
Upgrades that benefit operators also include a new leatherette seat, larger touchscreen, DAB audio (with handsfree and Bluetooth), air conditioning and eight LED work lights. Optional extras include four more LED lamps, a 360-degree monitor and cameras and ultrasonic obstacle detection.
Stephane Dieu, Excavator Product Specialist at Doosan, said: “The DX245NHD-7 adds a new highly sturdy option in the medium-sized range of crawler excavators from Doosan. With regard to the name of the machine, the ‘N’ stands for ‘Narrow Track’ and the ‘HD’ stands for ‘Heavy Duty’ illustrating its suitability for the most challenging applications. Complementing this, the ‘narrow’ design of the DX245NHD-7 offers the further advantage of a transportation width of only 2.54 m.”
Of course, when an excavator model is launched, you would expect it to be new and improved, but Cat’s new 17 tonne 317 promises operating efficiency gains of up to 45%, while its 317 GC is said to lower maintenance costs by up to 20%, compared with its predecessor.
The machines boast Smart mode, which automatically matches the engine and hydraulic power to the current working conditions to improve efficiency.
An ECO mode also reduces fuel consumption when applications are not particularly power-hungry.
Both excavators have a new main valve control, which Cat says eliminates the need for pilot lines and reduces pressure losses, also aiding fuel conservation.
On board technology is one reason for the efficiency gains Cat claims for the two new excavators. This includes Cat Grade with 2D, which operators can use to guide depth, slope and horizontal distance. This system can also be upgraded to Cat Grade with Advanced 2D or Cat Grade with 3D.
Cat Payload technology allows operators to weigh loads on the go and estimate payloads to improve loading efficiency and this operating data, including payload summaries, fuel usage and more, is automatically captured by Product Link, which can be accessed by fleet managers to improve overall efficiency.
Volvo CE crawler excavators
The two new 50 tonne crawler excavators from Volvo CE are the first the company has manufactured in this size class. Going the extra mile, the company has ensured both machines deliver digging and lifting forces one would expect to find in larger machines, and both feature the highest engine power in the class.
Volvo says that, as the EC530E and EC550E are both suited to loading articulated haulers in the 30-40 tonne class, fewer passes are required to load them. This is part of the reason the company promises a potential boost in productivity of up to 20%.
On both machines, the reinforced undercarriage and equally rugged upper and lower frame are complemented by a boom and arm that include a larger pin size for additional strength.
As powerful as these machines are, they also promise fuel efficiency gains of up to 25%, primarily due to a recently designed electro hydraulics system.
Digging into this the a little further, the excavators feature Independent Metering Valve Technology (IMVT) – basically an electronically controlled system that makes operations more precise than a mechanically controlled system.
The option of Comfort Drive Control is available on the new machines, giving operators the option of steering using the joystick rollers instead of the foot pedals.
Another fatigue-limiting feature is boom-and-arm bouncing reduction technology, which lessens machine shock.
With uptime crucial to productivity – and profit – the components of the EC530E and EC550E have been designed to be particularly durable. The electrical system has connectors that exceed water ingress protection standards and hydraulic pilot lines have been removed, reducing the number of couplings required.
At the same time, engine oil and filter change intervals now extend to 1,000 hours.
Hyundai Construction Equipment Europe
With one in every five crawler excavators in Europe bought being within the 20-tonne class, it seems like good business for Hyundai Construction Equipment Europe (HCEE) to launch a 22 tonne machine.
The HX210AL has a power output of 129kW, which comes from a Cummins B4.5 Stage V-compliant engine.
Hyundai says the engine has an innovative integrated ‘all-in-one’ exhaust after-treatment system, that reduces both emissions and maintenance requirements. According to the company, removing the need for EGR leads to enhanced reliability and simplified maintenance.
The HX210AL boasts 780Nm of peak torque – 7% more than the predecessor machine. This is balanced against another feature, electronic pump flow control (EPFC), which enhances controllability for precision work.
The new machine also features, as an option, machine guidance (MG) and machine control (MC), automatically controlling the attachment and indicating the current work status.
The MG displays the bucket tip’s position, while the MC takes control of grading with the bucket tip.
The HX210AL is part of Hyundai’s A series of machines, which carry a new livery, with a dark grey boom and dipper. Along with this makeover, operators will likely appreciate the new cab, with the lower glass area in the door improving visibility.
A Grammar air-suspension seat is another feature, as well a touchscreen monitor and jog-shuttle rotary controller.
Gert Peeters, product specialist supervisor at HCEE, said, “We’re really excited about this model. We think this is going to be a great entry into that 20 tonne class that the market is demanding. We are convinced the HX210A will become the new standard throughout Europe when it comes to performance and operating experience.”