Researchers halve machines' fuel consumption, by turning them into hybrids


June 3, 2011

Researchers have harnessed the energy generated by heavy machines, and used it to cut their fuel consumption by half (Photo: Aalto University)

Researchers have harnessed the energy generated by heavy machines, and used it to cut their fuel consumption by half (Photo: Aalto University)

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Many hybrid cars feature regenerative braking - they harness the energy generated when they brake, and store it in the battery for later use. This helps maximize the amount of time that the car can run on one charge. One can't help but wonder, then, how much energy could be harvested from heavy-duty construction, mining and agricultural machines, as they go about their business. A group of researchers from Finland's Aalto University decided to find out, and reportedly ended up cutting those machines' fuel consumption by 50 percent.

The Aalto team added electric power transmission systems (including motors) to a variety of existing internal-combustion non-road mobile machines, effectively turning them into hybrids. Unlike cars, these machines don't spend much time in stop-and-go traffic, so braking was not their primary energy-generation source. Instead, the majority of the energy came from work-related activities such as deceleration, and the lowering of loads.

The researchers are still in the process of determining which other actions provide the most energy.

By running partially on battery power derived from energy that they themselves generated, the test rigs use a claimed 50 percent less fuel. Such hybrid technology could also lead to lower emissions, better control, and more flexibility in the machines' design. Additionally, unused stored energy could be released into the grid.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

R.G.Letourneau made some of the largest earthmoving and construction equipment ever built. His company produced over 2/3 of the equipment used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in WW2- they moved more Earth worldwide during that time period by one single group (tunnels,highways,harbours,airfields etc.) than has ever been moved- before or since(during any one enterprise).

Virtually ALL of his equipment was diesel-electric hybrid.

He pioneered the use of rubber tires in heavy equipment and used rack&pinion,leverage and other techniques instead of hydraulics. Everything was designed to function with a minimum amount of parts support from the factory- instead of the greedy opposite. He gave 90% of his income to worldwide Christian work- building trade schools and hospitals as well as churches. He called it \"Christianity with its sleeves rolled up\". He never finished 6th grade in school yet constantly confounded the engineers that said his design proposals were impossible and would never work. He designed and perfected the first mobile offshore drilling platform. He himself said that he was only... \"A mechanic that God had Blessed\".

I only said all that to say this to these researchers and anyone else who\'s interested- Much has been already done yet forgotten that we should be reconsidering. Mr.Letourneau said that every generation of inventors and innovators stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before them. If we look to the ancients such as Archimedes and more recently,Newton and others, perhaps we should be looking a little more closely at some of the forgotten men of more recent times.

R.G.Letourneau\'s autobiography is called, \"Mover of Men and Mountains\". He is one of my heroes and has a lot more practical advice and ideas to share than just about anybody I know of throughout the modern industrial era.


They should contact us. We manufacture water hybrid cells that can convert some of the excess energy in the alternator to catalytic hydrogen. We have had a CAT85D report that diesel consumption dropped from 44 liters per hour to 26.6 liters per hour when using our 773 system here:

I would love to collaborate with their team on a project if interested- combine their tech and ours to see what the results of run time would be...

Robert Volk

It;s worth noting that R G LeTourneau was producing hybrid heavy equipment from the late 1950\'s, using diesel power and electric wheel motors.

From Wiki \"...In 1958,... LeTourneau re-entered the earthmoving equipment manufacturing business, offering..... a range of high capacity earthmoving, transportation, and material handling machines based on the revolutionary electric wheel drive system he had developed.\"

The company is still in the business:


A secondary method would be to use some of the energy generated for electrolysis of water to form Brown's gas and then to use the gas to enhance combustion of the regular fuel. This method is already being applied for large mining equipment in Australia. Advanced electrolysis using electricity in microchip controlled pulses has been developed that produce large amounts of hydrogen with very little input.

Adrian Akau

Reduced fuel consumption is nice, but will it save money when you add the cost of \'batteries\' and other additional components, and increased maintenance.

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