CASE methane-powered concept wheel loader, ProjectTETRA, at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020
CASE Construction Equipment featured the methane-powered ProjectTETRA wheel loader at the recent CONEXPO/CON-AGG 2020, highlighting the manufacturer’s commitment to sustainability through alternative propulsion solutions. It is presented at the show alongside the industry’s first fully electric backhoe loader, the CASE 580 EV — showcasing a commitment to expanding alternative fuel solutions for equipment beyond compact machines to heavy equipment.
ProjectTETRA was first introduced at Bauma 2019, taking its name from the Greek number four, which refers to both the four hydrogen atoms present in the chemical formula for methane, as well as the tetrahedron shape of the methane molecule.
The new wheel loader concept demonstrates the viability of alternative fuels in construction equipment and the feasibility of using fuel generated from waste products and renewable sources to perform loading/earthmoving operations. The machine is powered by a proven methane engine, produced by CASE sister-brand FPT Industrial, that delivers comparable performance as its diesel equivalent. ProjectTETRA has been tested in real-world construction environments and has the potential to lower total lifetime operating costs while simultaneously meeting sustainability objectives for its owners.
The innovative design includes cutting-edge styling and an advanced operator environment that makes extensive use of touchscreen and Internet of Things technologies.
“This is the first opportunity for North American contractors and operators to see ProjectTETRA, and our primary objective at CONEXPO is to get feedback from attendees about the viability of biomethane and compressed natural gas in different markets,” says Brad Stemper, North American product line leader for excavators and wheel loaders, CASE. “We foresee initial adoption of this technology in waste and agricultural applications that have the ability to produce their own biomethane — but also see potential with utilities and municipalities which offer incentives for alternative power earthmoving equipment that helps them lower their carbon footprint and run more efficiently.”
Working Cleaner with No Power Sacrifice
ProjectTETRA leverages more than seven years of experience and testing of methane engines with fellow CNH Industrial manufacturer New Holland agriculture, as well as more than 40,000 natural gas engines produced by FPT. The FPT engine featured in ProjectTETRA operates at 230 horsepower. Its performance would be similar to the 821G in the current CASE wheel loader lineup — a popular size class across a broad cross-section of construction industry segments. When running on methane, CO2 emissions are reduced by a minimum of 10 percent in real working conditions and become virtually zero when using biomethane. Polluting emissions are reduced by an average of 80 percent compared to a standard diesel engine, and operating noise is reduced by as much as 50 percent.
The loader would run for an entire standard workday on a single tank of fuel — and fill-up is as quick and easy as diesel. A simple, maintenance-free aftertreatment system featuring a single catalytic converter is used to meet emissions standards as the combustion of methane produces significantly lower emissions.
“This is the blueprint for working smarter and cleaner without sacrificing performance,” says Stemper. “Operations capable of producing biomethane could see their fuel costs drop to zero, and others will be able to run off the existing compressed natural gas (CNG) supply network and still achieve considerable emissions reduction and lower lifetime operating costs than with comparable diesel engines.”
The Future of Operator Control and Connectivity
The interior of ProjectTETRA looks futuristic yet leverages technology that CASE is already building into current and upcoming models of its G Series wheel loaders. The minimalist design of the cab offers intuitive operation with instant access to all primary controls. A new color touchscreen display integrated into the armrest serves as the control center for the machine and offers considerable futuristic yet highly practical features such as:
- Facial recognition start-up
- Access to machine parameters, machine settings and menus
- Payload measuring systems
- Jobsite maps that display general jobsite information and connect the loader to other vehicles on the site
- Weather screens showing real-time weather reports
- Lighting settings for the interior and exterior lighting
- Bluetooth radio and telephone connectivity
- Environmental controls
The cab also features a series of new screens on the adjacent pillar that provide front and rear camera feeds, key machine operating parameters, and customizations based on operator preference. The ProjectTETRA cab also incorporates voice command technology for in-cab elements such as cab temperature, music, messaging and phone calls. And not only is the cab fully environmentally controlled, but the seats also feature integrated heating and ventilation for even greater operator comfort. The concept also features an industry-first “cosseting seat” that automatically extends and pivots to facilitate entry when the door opens and returns to the operating position immediately after the operator is seated.
The machine will be fully connected to the newly updated CASE SiteWatch telematics platform and will be monitored by the CASE Uptime Center, a control room manned 24 hours a day/365 days a year that connects the manufacturer, dealer and machine owner to ensure optimal uptime. Fleet managers can communicate directly with the concept machine through on-board audio and text messaging, and 4G modem capabilities allow for two-way communication to the machine from dealer service techs that will allow for improved remote diagnostics and streamlined response to service needs, further minimizing downtime.
Futuristic Ride Provided by Michelin®
In order to spotlight the key role tire technology plays in machine productivity, CNH Industrial and Michelin worked together to develop an airless tire that represents a fusion of the tire/wheel that features built-in suspension. Its pure rubber and patented composite material construction have been designed to withstand the extreme conditions present in construction environments — ensuring optimal uptime and reduced operating costs associated with flat tires.
The tire’s honeycomb spoke design is lightweight and robust, and its bespoke asymmetric tread pattern traction, motricity and grip are significantly improved. The tripod blocks on the inner tread section enhance overall operational stability, as well as assist turning performance. The airless tires reduce overall machine weight and help deliver lower ground pressure. Advanced tire connectivity is foreseen with integrated sensors providing a stream of real-time data to both the operator and the Uptime Center – including a tire wear sensor. When active, the integrated sidewall lights are illuminated, which also function as an additional safety feature.
“ProjectTETRA represents the best in practical innovation from CASE, CNH Industrial, FPT and our partners at Michelin — providing fleet managers and equipment operators with solutions that improve daily operation and support a sustainable future in the industry and around the world,” concludes Stemper. “These are the solutions that will advance earthmoving practices, operator satisfaction and total sustainability, and CASE will continue pushing these initiatives forward with the help of this strong network of partners.”
For further information on the CASE methane-powered wheel loader concept – ProjectTETRA, including images, video and technical information, please visit: http://bit.ly/CASE_ProjectTETRA.