Optimising fuel efficiency

Optimising fuel efficiency

Environmental and energy cost issues demand that the construction equipment industry develop more efficient and energy-saving machines. During the CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT, held virtually on July 22-23, 2021, Kumar Gyanendra Mohan, Deputy General Manager – Asset Management, Constructio...

Environmental and energy cost issues demand that the construction equipment industry develop more efficient and energy-saving machines. During the CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY SUMMIT, held virtually on July 22-23, 2021, Kumar Gyanendra Mohan, Deputy General Manager – Asset Management, Construction Plant and Machinery, Montecarlo, spoke on the recent advances and whether hybridisation is now on the interim answer to efficiency. He said, “Fuel plays a fundamental role within the construction industry. Diesel is used as fuel in most construction equipment. It contributes more than 30% of operational costs of construction equipment and has a major impact on the profits of the company. Hence, implementation of an efficient fuel management program is necessary for reduction in operational cost of construction equipment.” Mohan added that fuel consumption depends on engine size and engine type, drive type fitted with the engine, equipment design and aerodynamics (wind drag), quality of fuel, load factor on engine, operating RPM of engine, frequent stops, operating hours and working of engine, insufficient intake air and filtration of intake air, calibration of engine fuel pump and injector, compliance of recommended maintenance practice, gross vehicle weight, ambient temperature, wind direction and velocity, terrain elevation changes, final gear ratio, wheel alignment and tyre pressure, and misadjusted or dragging brakes. According to Mohan, some of the fuel saving tips include: inspecting air filters regularly, checking tyre pressure, alerting for signs of a mechanical problem, running engine at low RPM whenever possible, servicing and repairing equipment regularly, avoiding aggressive acceleration, avoiding excessive idling, planning driving routes carefully, buying a fuel-efficient vehicle, minimising drag and reducing excessive weight, and operator experience, machine condition, job site conditions, all these affect the fuel consumption rate. Technology is improving for reduction in dependency in fuel and on time monitoring of performance of equipment. By adopting new technologies, companies could get ahead of the competition. “New technologies are more reliable and safe investments. Five specific innovations that could represent a positive return on investment are hybridization, biofuels, automation, the internet of things and drones,” said Mohan. Hybridisation Hybrid engines increase fuel efficiency and make construction equipment more efficient. This is most successful in equipment having more uses of brakes. Wheel Loader and excavator are giving good fuel efficiency by the use of hybridisation. Adds Mohan, “The machine's movement powers the electronic portion of a hybrid engine. Repetitive motions, such as loading or digging, create the friction that generates electricity and power can be stored in electric motor's battery, super capacitors, hydraulic accumulators, and flywheels used in hybrid construction machinery. The motor then works alongside the gas engine to increase power and reduce fuel consumption.” Hybrid engines are not the only alternative power sources for construction equipment. Diesel, the fuel of choice for heavy machinery, is more fuel-efficient than gasoline, but it still releases a substantial amount of pollutants. Alternative fuels such as biodiesel reduce emissions and could qualify companies for government subsidies in some areas. Automation The world is becoming more automated across all sectors, and construction is no different. Autonomous equipment is one of the most significant advances to occur in this industry. Driverless vehicles or low driver interference in machinery operation. Robotic compactors can automatically adjust for exacting site conditions, and also GPS-based grade systems of motor grader. “All above reduces workers' involvement in machinery operation, letting autonomous machinery navigate a worksite as per changing conditions and consequently reduces fuel consumption,” said Mohan. Internet connectivity in equipment allows workers and contractors to track the performance of their machinery carefully. Adds Mohan, “Sensors can measure fuel consumption and idle time, then send this data directly to workers, ensuring they're using equipment to their best ability. Trackers can send location data to managers in case something goes missing or gets stolen. Internet of things applications can also include remote power switches, so in the event of an emergency, a worker can cut the power to a malfunctioning machine. Bringing construction equipment into the internet of things will improve safety and efficiency.” Mohan feels that the construction industry is the fastest-growing adopter of commercial drones. “Drones are one of the most versatile pieces of modern technology. Construction companies can use them to survey land, track progress and increase security. Observing an area beforehand can significantly reduce the risk of workplace injuries. Drones can also serve as an advanced security tool, warding off would-be vandals and thieves.”

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