At Bauma 2019 in Munich, Bucher Hydraulics announced its new AX Pump. This announcement has come at a pivotal time for hydraulic vendors and should be taken as a signal of the direction the market is headed. The key difference in this pump versus its more conventional counterpart is its ability to perform at high efficiencies with an electric motor. The AX Pump represents a product that was designed with electric drivetrains in mind. It’s still early days for electrohydraulics, but we expect to see more hydraulic vendors release similar products as electrification becomes more prominent in off-highway vehicles.
The AX Pump addresses two issues hydraulic pumps face when used in an electric drivetrain. The first is prolonging battery life. Conventional hydraulic pumps typically achieve maximum efficiencies of ~85%. A 15% loss represents an undue burden on the life of a battery. While in some cases battery life is not an issue (e.g. in tethered electric vehicles), we project the vast majority of electrified drive trains going forward will be (untethered) battery electric vehicles (see Figure 1).
The AX Pump is said to achieve an overall efficiency of ~94%, which is attractive for an OEM seeking to extend the working hours of its electric vehicle; especially when you consider that hydraulic pumps are almost always continuously running.
The second issue this product addresses is the performance of hydraulic pumps at a low revolution count. Certain applications require a high amount of pressure at low speeds, which traditional pumps have had difficulty achieving due to their lower RPM limit. However, the AX Pump does not face this issue. One of its key differentiators is its ability to perform anomalously well at low RPMs. Electric motors can operate at a very low revolution count, hence the AX Pump allows new applications to go electric.
Currently, the mobile hydraulics market is at an inflection point where the electrification of off-highway vehicles is just beginning to affect hydraulic vendor behaviors surrounding product launches and acquisitions. At this time, we expect to see an increasing number of vendors marketing new products for electric vehicles while new companies begin entering the market in an effort to fill the increasing demand by OEMs for electrified solutions. Eventually, the market will enter a phase where the pairing of hydraulic and electric components is more normal. When this occurs, if vendors have not spent the pre-requisite time to understand, design, and engineer solutions to appease this need, their business will likely suffer.
Alongside Bucher Hydraulics, activities from other major vendors further support the notion that we are at an inflection point. Danfoss Power Solutions’ acquisition of AXCO-Motors, which had the stated goal of “strengthening its (Danfoss’) global position within mobile electrification”, is one example of the company’s ongoing efforts to prepare for the coming wave of electrified powertrains. Furthermore, in APAC, Japan-based KYB has begun marketing electrohydraulic actuators to construction and agricultural OEMs, a product previously only seen in industrial markets.
Bauma Munich 2019 – An Electric Occasion
On the OEM side, Bauma Munich saw the unveiling of a number of fully electric construction vehicles. Volvo CE unveiled their ECR25, a fully electric excavator which follows the company’s announcement to release a full line of electric excavators and wheel loaders by 2020. Komatsu and Hitachi, two of the top construction manufacturers in Asia, also unveiled their own fully electric mini-excavator models. Each of these support our theory that off-highway electrification will begin in low power-density applications and slowly progress into higher power-density applications as the concept is proven, the technology evolves, and the electric components become more cost competitive.
Perhaps one of the most interesting announcements at Bauma was Yanmar’s unveiling of an autonomous excavator with complete hydraulic replacement. This concept vehicle offers a glimpse of what we can expect to see mid- to long-term: hydraulic disruption through replacement. While not expected to be a significant driver in the short term, we expect hydraulic replacement to progress in a similar fashion to electrification. First, the concept will be proven in low power-density applications; and second, the technology will slowly penetrate higher power-density applications until it can no longer compete with the high power-density capabilities of hydraulic solutions.
Yanmar’s eFuzion Concept
Each of these vendor’s activities promote the idea that electrification should no longer be an afterthought for mobile hydraulic vendors. Now is the time to pay attention to this trend, and hydraulic vendors should be actively exploring design considerations aimed at optimizing the performance of the hydraulic system in an electrified powertrain architecture. Developing competencies in this space at this point in time opens up an opportunity to build an engrained competitive advantage and grab share from competitors as electrified drivetrains become more prevalent.
Interact Analysis’ Mobile Hydraulic Market Report – 2019 captures and discusses the development of the mobile hydraulic market by vehicle type, product, industry, and region. Interviews with industry insiders helped piece together the size and growth profiles for hydraulic pumps, motors, valves, and cylinders for each of the major vehicle types where these products are found. In the report, we quantify the impact that electrification is having and predict how the trend will affect the market in the future. Additionally, shifting vehicle production, changes in geographic makeup, IoT trends, and trends specific to mobile hydraulic sectors are explored in detail. For information on how to acquire the report you can find more details on our website (here) or email: email@example.com.