Komatsu invests in electric drive innovation

Komatsu has brought electric drive technology, specifically switched reluctance (SR) technology, centre stage at its new Electric Drive Innovation Center now open in Longview, Texas, US
Komatsu invests in electric drive innovation Komatsu invests in electric drive innovation Komatsu invests in electric drive innovation Komatsu invests in electric drive innovation Komatsu invests in electric drive innovation

A Komatsu team member working on SR technology

The research and development facility, at 25,000 square feet (2,323 square metres) with an additional 6,000 square feet (557 square metres) in a covered area outdoors, has been designed as an engineering hub that, according to Komatsu, will focus on "ushering the industry into a new era of efficiency and productivity".

Purpose-built, it includes multiple electric drive train cells, capability for full drive line testing for mining vehicles of all sizes and bench test rooms for examining machine response in harsh climates.

"We're taking our 100 years of experience in working with SR technology, and we're really ratcheting up the scope of the work we are doing," engineering director Mark Barr said, referring in part to the company's acquisition of long-time earthmoving company LeTourneau.

"The goal has always been to improve cost per hour and cost per ton, and we're addressing that issue for operations around the world. This facility shows that we have a dedication to providing them with the things that matter most to them."

According to Komatsu, its SR hybrid drive system can capture and use regenerated energy, reducing a machine's overall fuel consumption by up to 45%.

The OEM's team in Texas is currently working on improving its existing product lines, including its P&H electric rope shovel motors, the P&H L-1350 wheel loader and the Joy underground LHD (load-haul-dump) battery hauler.

Barr said that the facility isn't just about how the company can add electric drive to machines; Komatsu is also seeking to find ways to make the technology smaller and more compact.

"Despite the size of these machines, the space on them is very much at a premium," he said. "We'd rather help the customer find a way to utilise our technology while being able to devote every inch of real estate that they can to payload."