Going Green


Volvo goes above and beyond to ensure its range of construction equipment addresses environmental concerns.

The words ‘environmental care’ may seem at odds with construction equipment manufacturing, but the truth is quite different. Strenuous emissions and noise regulations continue to push OEMs to meet ever stringent goals. The use of bio-degradable hydraulic fluid has become a ticket to trade when bidding jobs in certain parts of the world. And reusing components or materials helps conserve valuable resources.

Regulatory compliance is providing the impetus for developing systems and components that do not unduly damage the environment. Nowhere is this more evident than the issue of engine emissions. It is here that an equipment maker who is also actively involved with the on-highway market has a distinct advantage. Combustion control technology solutions used for over-the-road trucks directly correlates to construction equipment. That synergy makes a huge difference, as off-highway manufacturers race to ensure their products meet US Tier 4 emission regulations.

One company well placed to harness those synergies is Volvo. The global maker’s engine business is able to draw on its development for on-highway US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) technology and apply it to construction equipment. Volvo has chosen not to rely on external EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) coolers or after-treatment to reduce emissions for its construction equipment lines. Instead, it utilizes flexible high-pressure diesel injectors, an optimized air management system and engine controller that cuts NOx and NMHC from 6.4 to 4.0 g/kWh, a reduction of 38%. The result is a system that can operate on all diesel fuels worldwide without depending on low sulfur content.

Reducing noise is another highly topical environmental issue. The majority of manufacturers follow two ISO (International Organization for Standardization) criteria when measuring noise levels. ISO 6395 is used to measure external noise, while ISO 6396 defines how noise must be measured in the operator’s cab. Volvo continually strives to reduce the noise levels of its machines - both externally and in the operator’s cab – and many of its models are among the quietest available. Indeed, the company gained a ‘Blue Angel’ award in Germany for noise levels emitted by its L20, L25 and L30B compact wheel loaders. Moreover, the maker’s latest compact excavator models are also easily compliant with the EU’s (European Union) noise directive.

Minimizing environmental impact is absolutely critical when working in certain countries. The use of biodegradable hydraulic fluid, for example, can make a big difference when contracts are awarded. In Sweden the ministry of roads applies higher economic compensation to a bid if such oils are utilized. Turn to Germany or Switzerland and there is even more stimulus. Laws in these two countries stipulate contractors must pay all costs for a site clean up should a hydraulic oil leak occur. Therefore, many contractors are happy to pay a small premium for biodegradable fluid, knowing it significantly reduces their costs in the event of spillage.

Volvo offers biodegradable fluids as a factory supplied option throughout its product range. The company has additionally taken many preventative measures to ensure hydraulic oil spillages are reduced to a minimum. The axle oil cooler found under the skin of the company’s large wheel loaders is but one example of responsible manufacturing, which translates into cost savings for the end user.

That responsibility extends much further than simply providing the customer with fluid options. Volvo takes great care to source components and materials that do not harm the environment. Paint applied to equipment is powder or water-based to reduce solvent emissions in most instances. Mercury, cadmium and asbestos is not used at all. Only CFC free refrigerant R134a is contained within air conditioning systems. Moreover, 95% of materials can be recycled. Engines and transmissions are remanufactured, while other components provide value when used as spare parts. Elsewhere, iron and steel, polymers, plastics, rubber, glass, electric components and batteries can all be recycled.

Equally important to minimizing environmental impact is how equipment provides energy savings. Machinery has to have the right equilibrium of hydraulic power versus fuel consumption to be effective in the field. Volvo achieves that balance through a load sensing hydraulic system that only uses the precise amount of oil needed at the pressure required, thereby reducing fuel usage. The system is common throughout the OEM’s product range – from large motor graders right down to the smallest excavator. Not all manufacturers can claim the same. And certain lines feature a hydraulically driven fan that cools the engine based on requirements not speed. Again, this helps save fuel.

One of the beauties of load sensing hydraulics is it means an operator does not have to run equipment at full rpm. That, say the experts, is the single biggest tip to maximizing machine life without destroying the surrounding environment. Operators should be encouraged to try and run machinery between the 1,600 and 1,800 rpm range, depending on the product. Back off rpm and let the high torque capability of today’s generation of engine do its job means more work on less fuel. Volvo considers this so important that it optimized the air conditioning/compressor ratio on its grader line to be most efficient at 1,600 rpm instead of the full throttle tactic employed by others.

All of this technology, processes, systems and components add up to one thing: a commitment to protecting the world we live in. Volvo lists quality, safety and care for the environment as its core values. The evidence suggests it is going above and beyond to do that.