An unusual creature winds its way quietly and efficiently through the wooded valleys of the Alto Adige in northern Italy: not a previously unknown predator feeding on deer and local fauna, but the all-new Energya hybrid truck mixer by Cifa; after a long and stringent testing stage carried out at the company's research centre in Senago, the truck has made its debut on construction sites and is now actively at work in the province of Bolzano, under the watchful eye of the operators and technicians of Chiusa-based Beton Eisack, one of the most important regional contractors in the concrete production and transportation segment. The people at Beton Eisack immediately saw the potential of the newcomer in the Cifa range, both because the Bolzano district is particularly sensitive to "green" issues, and because public sector clients in this part of Italy offer benefits in the bidding process for companies pursuing innovation in this area (pollution reduction). That's why Christian Auer, one of Beton Eisack's proprietors, speaks enthusiastically about the qualities of Energya: "the truck is great because it gives us the edge over our competitors in the most environmentally-sensitive work sites. At Beton Eisack we're extremely safety-conscious and environmentally driven so a low pollution hybrid truck featuring very quiet operation can hardly fail to impress. Then there are the operational benefits, especially on work sites in confined spaces (in tunnels and inside enclosed industrial sheds), and also when work must be carried out at night or in residential areas where noise is poorly tolerated. So we're looking at a pretty significant competitive advantage". So which of the innovative features of the new Energya truck particularly impressed Beton Eisack? First of all there's the patented movement system for the drum, which is driven by an electric induction motor instead of the truck's hydraulics. The induction motor is powered by a lithium ion battery that can be recharged simply by plugging a lead into a power grid outlet. Battery charging is extremely quick (just 18 minutes for a full charge) when using the Cifa-designed quick-charging column that can be installed in any batching plant, but even plugging into a normal industrial 380 V outlet (any work site electrical system has at least one) results in surprisingly fast charging (approximately four hours). The batteries can also be charged directly via an engine-driven generator as the truck travels between batching plant and work site; autonomous recharging is further aided by the Kinetic Energy Recovery System or "KERS", developed by Cifa to recover energy during vehicle acceleration and deceleration stages, transferring the kinetic energy to a power take-off which then drives the on-board generator. This is a complete and integrated system that helps reduce engine wear and gives big savings in fuel consumption (-27% if the mixer drum battery is recharged from the power grid), allowing amortization of the purchase price in little more than four years of use. Another key factor: electrically driven drum rotation means the truck engine can be switched off immediately on arrival on the site, and concrete placing procedures can be performed without the emission of atmospheric pollutants and with far lower noise levels than conventional mixer systems: laboratory and field tests performed by Cifa showed that site noise levels are reduced by 10 dB, making it possible to work in densely populated areas, during the night time, in the immediate proximity of hospitals and in other noise sensitive sites. Also pollution reduction has become a major competitive factor, as Public Authorities impose increasingly stringent limits for access to town centres that will soon make it impossible for the majority of legacy site vehicles of past generations to operate in urban surroundings. Finally, there's the truck's ease of use, even by less expert operators (unlike Beton Eisack's skilled personnel): all operations can be controlled from two panels, one in the cab and one at the rear of the truck. The cab panel has a large-size LCD display showing the main operating data (concrete consistency, battery charge level, drum rotation speed). This panel can be used to control concrete loading and placing, drum stopping and all the batteries management and system status monitoring functions. All on-screen indications are absolutely clear, intuitive, and visible also in the most adverse lighting conditions. A colour video camera at the rear of the truck enables the driver to monitor placing procedures even without leaving the cab, thus increasing work site safety. Finally, Cifa has spared a thought also for the most "traditionally-minded" customers by guaranteeing Energya's batteries (five years), chassis (two years) and mixing drum (four years). All that remains to do is to take the truck for a spin!
Beton Eisack is a familiar and well-respected name in the Alto Adige region of Italy; the company, incorporated 30 years ago, is based in Chiusa, where it operates out of a purpose-built modern and stylish group offices complex. With around 100 staff and seven branches, Beton Eisack is the industry leader in Alto Adige, where it operates over the full range of building construction activities, from excavation and demolition works to earthmoving, underground building, collection, disposal and recycling of building materials, transportation services for building materials and equipment, and sales of sand, gravel and stone chip. The Chiusa-based company has participated in a large number of high profile projects, including, by way of proof of its operational and managerial excellence, the Brenner Base tunnel (supply of concrete, shotcrete and cement), the supply of concrete and cement for construction of the Bressanone west orbital road, and the supply of concrete for the ultra-modern Hafner Energy Tower. One of the Beton Eisack's hallmarks is the attention devoted to environmental sustainability, social responsibility, safety, and the technological innovations employed to achieve goals in these areas: that's why Cifa chose Beton Eisack for field testing of Energya, the world's first plug-in hybrid truck mixer.
A tough shell with an energy-saving heart
Even though the MAN truck configured with the Energya mixer used for testing on Beton Eisack's construction sites was still just a Euro 5 compliant vehicle, the German heavy vehicle manufacturer has already presented its Euro 6 construction site range, which was unveiled at last year's Bauma exhibition. The innovations implemented on the new line of trucks are many, starting obviously from the engines, which can be supplied in a power range from 162 to 353 kW; with respect to Euro 5 the new standard calls for an 80% reduction in Nox and a 66% cut in particulate emissions. MAN achieved these results by post-treating the exhaust gas with an oxidation catalyst coupled with a "closed" particulate filter system and SCR catalytic converters. Flexibility (speaking of the TGM, TGS and TGS-WW ranges) is one of the key strengths for MAN's construction site applications as proven also in the case of Energya: the post-treatment systems installed to comply with Euro 5 and Euro 6 requirements do not affect the load bed, so the MAN chassis can accept a range of construction site equipment without problems: truck mixers, reinforced bodies, front-mounted loading cranes, etc. Other features that are sure to win the approval of construction site experts include the high payload, the exceptional elasticity of the engine at low revs and the three-part bumpers (made of steel in line with MAN tradition) designed to reduce repair costs (only the damaged section requires replacement). Finally, the trucks have been given a stylish new front end, in which aesthetics are skilfully integrated with the technical requirements of the new Euro 6 engines (cooling, above all).
Construction site up in the hills
The residents of Ortisei are accustomed to peace, quiet and unimpeded views over the mountain landscape, so they tend to be rather ill-disposed towards anything that threatens to upset their idyllic surroundings. And it's probably more than coincidence that Beton Eisack, a company that is well aware of the mind-set of the people who live these areas, chose to put the brand-new Energya to the test on a construction site for a condominium with three aboveground floors (and one basement for garages) set on the mountainside in a position that offers breathtaking views over the valley below. On completion, the new building will form part of a low volume residential district that is already densely inhabited and so the low level of pollutant emissions (noise and combusted gas) were key factors to take into consideration; that's why the possibility of placing the concrete with the engine off, silently (except for the churning of the aggregate in the mixer drum) was a winning feature to avoid disputes with wary neighbours. This "miracle" was made possible because Energya's drum is driven exclusively by the electric motor connected to the battery which, in terms of sheer specifications, produces a noise reduction of up to 10 dB compared to traditional solutions (for people living close to the site the noise perception is about 50% lower). Also pollutant emissions from the truck's engine have been completely eliminated, since as soon as the truck is correctly positioned on the site the engine can be simply switched off. Neighbours (and construction site workers) are sincerely grateful!