Manufacturer reveals world’s first methane-powered construction vehicle at bauma 2019
CASE have unveiled the world’s first wheel loader to run entirely on alternative and renewable fuel. ProjectTETRA, the company’s methane-powered wheel loader concept, is said to demonstrate a clear pathway to a renewable future for construction equipment, shifting away from a reliance on the traditional diesel engine and addressing one of the world’s most pressing issues – environmental sustainability – with a pragmatic solution for the construction industry.
Re-imagining wheel loader design, Project TETRA marks a clear departure from anything seen in construction equipment to date. The concept includes a methane-powered engine, specially designed and developed by sister brand FPT Industrial for construction applications. With a maximum 230hp, it delivers the same power and torque as its equivalent diesel engine found in the Case 821G wheel loader.
The engine is powered by biomethane which is produced in biodigesters from waste products such as waste food, wood chippings and animal waste. With carbon-neutral production, biomethane provides a closed-loop, virtuous energy cycle, converting waste into useful energy.
‘We’ve been researching sustainable fuel sources for our construction machinery for many years,’ explained Carl Gustaf Goränsson, president of Construction. ‘Biomethane was the most logical choice for the wheel loader. We needed a fuel that could provide the drive and power that our customers demand. The fuel needed to be readily available, easy to refuel and power through a full day’s work. We wouldn’t comprise on performance, so we set our designers quite a challenge.
‘We were fortunate to work very closely with sister brand FPT Industrial, pioneers in developing sustainably fuelled powertrains, with over 40,000 gas-powered engines produced to date. This technology is already tried and tested in other CNH Industrial brands as there are some 28,000 methane-powered Iveco trucks and buses on the roads today.’
Case say ProjectTETRA not only uses a sustainable energy source but also benefits the environment in other ways. The methane-powered wheel loader concept is said to produce 95% less CO2 when running on biomethane, 90% less nitrogen dioxides and 99% lower particulate matter than a diesel-powered equivalent. It delivers an 80% reduction in overall emissions and also achieves a 50% reduction in drive-by noise levels.
‘We don’t believe in developing technology for technology’s sake,’ continued Mr Goränsson. ‘Our innovations must solve real-world challenges in a simple and straightforward way. ProjectTETRA is suited to do so in common job sites; agricultural environments, waste-handling centres and recycling businesses are perfect locations for a biogas production plant, providing a free source of fuel for the machines working on site.
‘But biomethane isn’t the only option. ProjectTETRA will run on network methane too, providing access to lower emissions than diesel, even if on-site biomethane production is not an option.’
Although sustainability was a major factor in ProjectTETRA’s definition, the design team also wanted to showcase the very best of Case’s practical innovation, with the focus firmly on the operator and productivity.
‘Automation and digitization were key drivers in our design process,’ revealed David Wilkie, director of the CNH Industrial Design Centre. ‘We are a future-focused business, and these are two of our key strategic pillars. These elements are the drivers for safer and more productive machines. ProjectTETRA was a blank sheet so we could be as creative as possible in including the very latest technologies that matter.’
ProjectTETRA’s cab features wrap-around glazing and a high-visibility roof panel, increasing the total glazed area by 16% when compared with a standard wheel loader.
All-around visibility is achieved with the use of viewing cameras instead of wing mirrors. These are automatically linked to the direction of the machine and viewed on A-pillar-mounted displays.
All controls are accessed through ergonomic joysticks and an integrated, armrest-mounted, colour touchscreen monitor, whilst the driver’s seat automatically extends and pivots to facilitate entry upon door opening, returning to the operating position immediately after the operator is seated, which is an industry first.
An exclusive partnership with Michelin led to the development of innovative airless concept tyres for ProjectTETRA. Constructed from pure rubber and a patented composite material in a honeycomb spoke design, the tyre/wheel fusion also features built-in suspension.
The lightweight and robust tyre structure has been designed to withstand the extreme conditions present in construction environments. In addition, the airless tyres reduce overall machine weight and a large footprint delivers low contact pressure. Advanced connectivity is achieved with integrated sensors, providing a stream of real-time data to both the operator and the control room. When active, the integrated sidewall lights are illuminated and also function as an additional safety feature.
ProjectTETRA can be controlled at the touch of a button through the armrest-mounted operating hub. Operators can access all key operating parameters and functionality, including: face scanning to activate the start-up sequence; a bucket load–fill assist screen that displays target load, current bucket load and remaining load; a job site map, which tracks incoming trucks, indicates the fastest route to the selected work area and displays general site information; weather screens showing real-time weather reports; and access to secondary machine parameters, machine settings and additional sub-menus.
The operator can also swipe the operating screen to the A-pillar screens. The A-pillar screens contain further machine-monitoring details and ‘at-a-glance’ performance indicators, including feeds from all viewing cameras and operating parameters such as machine speed, engine speed, fuel level, engine and oil temperature, selected gear, engine hours and time.
All machine data are automatically communicated to the control centre, allowing for on-the-job updates and optimization to increase machine efficiency.
ProjectTETRA also employs the latest biometric technology to ensure the safety and comfort of the operator. Before the operator reaches the machine, it is ready for operation. Remote retinal scanning, accessed through any mobile device, activates heating and cooling to adjust the cab to the optimal operating temperature. Biometric facial recognition technology is integrated into the access and start-up sequences to ensure that only fully qualified operators have access to the machine.
Demonstrating Case’s developments in autonomous technology, ProjectTETRA also includes integrated obstacle-detection technology, alerting the driver to any possible hazards on site.
Moreover, the ProjectTETRA concept loader is compatible with the complete range of buckets and was fitted with high-tip and quarry versions from Leonardi Benne during the initial testing activities.
‘The most striking thing about ProjectTETRA is its design. It expands the preconceived conception of what a wheel loader should look like,’ explained David Wilkie. ‘We took inspiration from our emblem, the American bald eagle. You’ll see bird-like features within the design, from the integrated cab wings and the commanding stance of the eagle’s head and beak within the rear engine cover.
‘As the name suggests, ProjectTETRA contains elements relating to the structure of methane too. The tetrahedral structure of the methane molecule is expressed in the name but also in the design. And we have finished the machine in our custom-made metallic fleck Case power-tan paint finish. A nod to the heritage of our brand but with a strong link to our innovative and sustainable future.’