NEW TECHNOLOGY: For the past few years the Tier 4 Final 11-16 liter engine project team has been conducting verification tests in extreme conditions
by Tony Lawrence
Chief project manager for Volvo CE’s Tier 4 Final/Stage IV initiative, Jan Guthammar has spent four years heading up testing and verification of the company’s latest engines and machines prior to their launch at ConExpo 2014. Backed by a team of specially selected experts, he has been working in secret with highly advanced technology.
Volvo CE’s new articulated haulers, wheel loaders and excavators, equipped with Tier 4 Final emissions legislation compliant engines, have been tested to the maximum – at temperatures of -40ºC in the far north of Sweden near the Arctic Circle, through 50ºC of sweltering heat in Spain and at 3,500m above sea level in the French Alps.
“It has been a huge logistics exercise,” says Guthammar, who heads the Tier 4f 11-16 liter engine platform. “The team traveled around the world with our prototypes backed up by a group of specialist engineers, which has been an adventure in itself.
“Each expedition took about four months to plan and around one month to carry out, with every minute counting. We rotated our team so we could operate up to 16-hour days, seven days a week. We’ve tested everything possible, down to the last screw, in the most demanding conditions to verify engine and machine performance.”
Volvo CE’s Tier 4 Final/Stage IV-compliant D4, D6, D8, D11, D13 and D16 diesel engines improve fuel efficiency by up to 5% over previous models and reduce running costs overall. The engines incorporate selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to meet the 80% lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) limit. SCR uses an injection of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF in the US) or AdBlue® (Europe) into the exhaust gas flow to convert NOx to harmless nitrogen and water. SCR has been used by Volvo Trucks since 2005. Volvo CE capitalized on the vast experience within the Volvo Group and the millions of hours of real world testing the technology has already been through. The redesigned, fully automatic diesel particulate filter (DPF) system reduces particulate matter without interrupting machine operation or lowering productivity or performance. Passive regeneration takes place regularly at low exhaust temperatures to oxidize particulate matter. Infrequently, particulate matter is also incinerated at high temperatures via reset regeneration. Neither process requires intervention from the operator, and feedback from customers who have tested the new machines is excellent.
“Producing a greener engine and fitting it into our machines was a huge challenge in itself, but for us the key was to go further than those requirements and focus on improving fuel efficiency, engine power, ease of service and machine performance,” explains Guthammar.
In investment terms, Tier 4 Final represents the largest development project ever carried out by the company.
So, which was the toughest leg? “The Alps,” says Guthammar – a highly experienced engineer who has worked with IBM, General Electric and Bombardier – without hesitation. The team went up to 2,200m, stayed in secluded houses normally used by ski industry workers, then drove up beyond 3,000m, along a one-lane road. With an A40 hauler, that leaves a 30cm gap on each side. When it snowed, the visibility was down to a few meters.
“But it created a great bond between our team members, who were all specialists and drawn from all over, from Sweden and Germany, Korea, the US and South America. They became a very close community.”
And all this was done unobtrusively trying to stay away from prying eyes as well as camera lenses, Guthammar explains.
The verification process, he adds, was “invaluable” and a huge success, highlighting certain issues and also producing some welcome surprises: “Most of the time, in fact, things turned out even better than predicted.”
“The engines and machines were tested on work benches, in climate chambers and test sites for more than 100,000 hours but you still find out new things under extreme conditions when you drive them up a very steep slope, fully loaded, in the toughest weather conditions. And when you find the engines cope even better than expected, or are more fuel-efficient than forecast, that puts a huge smile on your face. These expeditions are invaluable in this regard.”
Guthammar might be expected to relax now, and take a little time to ski or play some golf – but no. “This is the most important bit – the launch of these machines. That is what counts. This is the bit that makes sense of what we did before. You don’t let go now.”