HISTORY LESSON: Volvo Construction Equipment is the world’s largest manufacturer of wheel loaders and this year marks the 60th anniversary of the first one made by the company
Demand for farm tractors and construction equipment of all kinds increased after WWII and, when it came out in 1954, Volvo’s first wheel loader was basically a modified farm tractor with an attachment bracket. The parallel movement made changing attachments easier. The rear-wheel steer machine was modelled on a reversed tractor, powered by a three-cylinder diesel engine with an output of 35hp and a 5-speed mechanical gearbox. When it first appeared, the success of the H-10 paved the way for further development of construction machinery by Volvo. From humble beginnings, the wheel loader became a company signature product.
Once owned by Evald Mörtsell, who bought it second-hand, the first model stands in the Volvo CE Munktell Museum in Eskilstuna, Sweden. In July 2010, the retired gravel-pit owner made the 800km journey to the museum from his home in northern Sweden to cast a nostalgic eye over his old H-10 as part of his 90th birthday celebrations. He told museum curators that the machine was loading trucks non-stop nearly 24 hours a day during the summer months and, until he traded it in for a new Volvo model, moved an estimated 150,000 cubic meters of gravel over a period of ten years.
“It needed strength to hold the gear lever in place when going backwards,” he commented – a far cry from today’s models which are designed with optimum operator comfort in mind. Bought new or used, Volvo wheel loaders are now employed all over the world in quarrying, aggregates, block and material handling, civil engineering and building construction, recycling, waste handling, lumber yards and agriculture.
Larger wheel loaders with articulated steering, a new type of lift-arm system and comfortable cabs with high safety features were introduced in the early 70s. A few wheel loader generations later saw the introduction in 1991 of operator-friendly Care Cab and Volvo’s patented Torque Parallel (TP) linkage. The D-series arrived in 2000, revolutionary in terms of performance, safety, productivity and lower environmental impact, and noted for style. Apart from an even higher standard of comfort, operators enjoyed greater all-round visibility and a lower level of noise.
The G-series of wheel loaders, first introduced in 2011, offers a number of new features coupled with higher productivity, lower fuel consumption and optimum operator comfort.
The evolution of the wheel loader continues: Volvo designers have come up with Gryphin, the wheel loader of the future. It has a zero-emission electric hybrid engine, noiseless electric wheel motors and intelligent cab glass that automatically heats up in cold weather and darkens in bright sunlight. It is estimated that the Gryphin would provide energy savings of up to 50%. While still referred to as a concept model, much of the Gryphin technology is currently under development and some is already being tested – and likely to become a familiar sight on-site within the next 20 years.