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Emissions drive innovation

Thursday, 27 Sep 2007 ( #329 )
Special Feature
by Christine Liew

With the phasing in of emissions regulations, forklift manufacturers have no choice but to ensure their engines are compliant if they want to stay in the business.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) introduced large spark-ignition engine standards for new forklifts in 2001-2004 and more recently, in July 26 this year, it adopted off-road emission-control regulations for "in use" diesel engines. In 1998, The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopted stringent standards (Tier 2 and Tier 3) for emissions from new non-road diesel engines. Tier 3 standards for engines between 37kW and 560kW (50hp and 750hp) were phased in from 2006.

The EPA estimates by 2030 emissions reductions will save USD80 billion annually in the US by preventing 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and one million lost work days each year.

Working on the emission control problem isn’t cheap for manufacturers but the overall benefits of cost reduction are expected to outweigh the costs.
How have industry members responded to the regulations? Here are just some examples.

In June 2003, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (MHI) and Nissan Motor Co Ltd introduced their first joint product since establishing a business partnership in 2000. The Grendia, MHI and Nissan claimed, met environmental standards in Japan, the US and Europe. The companies developed electronically-controlled gasoline, conventional gasoline and diesel engines for the 56-variation model range. By equipping the  
The Grendia, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and Nissan Motor Co Ltd's joint product
electronically-controlled engine with a three-way catalyst muffler, the companies claim they reduced NOx, CO and HC emissions by more than 90% compared to their other products. Meanwhile, the diesel model's engine reduced smoke concentration by more than 50% compared to then-current products.

Less than a month later, Nissan launched the red and silver Nissan Agres, co-developed with Mitsubishi. The 69-model Agres forklift range that had lift capacities from 1.0 tonne to 3.5 tonnes (2,205.0lbs to 7,716.0lbs), derived its name from the word aggressive. The Agres petrol and LPG models, Nissan claimed, reduced NOx emissions by 99% over conventional engines and satisfied EPA regulations while the diesel models reduced black smoke emissions up to 90%. The company targeted sales of 20,000 units in the forklift's first year.

In July 2004, MHI announced it would increase diesel forklift production by 20% from 120,000 units a year to 145,000 units a year by 2007. Mitsubishi's diesel engines complied with the EPA's Tier 3 emission standards for non-road diesel engines that take effect this year. The company said it was taking advantage of its engine compliance with "new EPA standards" to grow its market share. "The company looks to double its global share from current 4% to near 8% in 2007," MHI said. To accommodate the expansion, MHI invested JPY3.5 billion (USD31.8 million) at its Sagamihara plant in Kanagawa that year.

Illinois, US-based Woodward Governor Company, is a world-leading provider of energy control solutions for engines. Its components are integrated into OEM's engine systems. Woodward won contracts to supply its MI-4 engine control systems for Daewoo's and Clark’s General Motors and Mitsubishi engines in 2003. The forklifts were headed for the US and Asian markets.

Woodward's MI-4 system is a system of fuel, air and ignition control modules for small industrial engines that meet the 2004 EPA standards.

Clark Material Handling Company’s then CEO Kevin Reardon said emissions control was a considerable expense all forklift manufacturers had to face.

"Everybody’s got to comply. No-one is excluded, so it’s an expense we all have to endure. Companies making their own engines, like Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota, will be better equipped to handle it," he said.

In 2006, Woodward introduced the MI-07 that meets EPA's 2007 emissions standards for large spark-ignited engines and also complies with 2008 Japanese regulations. The next-generation control system provides an engine control solution with drive-by-wire engine control and CAN communications.

Impco Technologies, an engine systems and component manufacturer in California, US, secured a three-year contract with Nacco Materials Handling Group to supply its Hyster and Yale forklifts with EPA- and CARB- compliant engines in 2003. The contract value was expected to exceed USD25 million in its first year. In 2005, Impco also won a contract to supply CARB/EPA emissions-certified engines to Anhui Heli Forklift Truck Group Corp of Hefei, China. The engines were for Heli forklifts going to the global market and the agreement ended in December last year. Impco said its emission-certified engine provided "a turnkey solution to OEMs", enabling them to comply with stringent regulations without having to invest in advanced engineering and testing.

Strict EPA and CARB 2004 regulations prompted Toyota Material Handling USA Inc (TMHU) to produce compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered forklifts, which it introduced to the market in 2005. CNG forklifts were usually converted from LPG or gasoline forklifts using conversion kits. However, Toyota said EPA and CARB guidelines for altering certified engines essentially eliminated aftermarket CNG conversions in the US.

TMHU engineer Mark Hartman said the CNG fuel system option available for its 4,000lb-6,500lb (1.8t-3.0t) IC cushion and 3,000lb-6,500lb (1.4t-3.0t) IC pneumatic forklift models, "addressed the regulatory situation generated by the 2004 regulations". "CNG fuel has been proven to provide the lowest emission levels over LPG, gasoline and diesel," Hartman said.

Nissan's Platinum series forklift
Nissan Forklift announced in 2006 that its full line of internal combustion engines had been certified by EPA and CARB for the 2007 standards for large spark-ignited engines. The company's K21 and K25 electronic fuel-injected industrial engines that power its Platinum II forklifts drew from Nissan's automotive experience. They rely on an electronic concentrated control system (ECCS) to automatically analyse engine performance parameters and optimise engine operation. The forklifts have an electronic control module (ECM), which responds to sensor data input and adjusts the air/fuel ratio and ignition to provide the right torque and speed.

Yale Material Handling Corp says engines in its Veracitor VX line that are compatible with EPA and CARB 2007 emissions requirements are now available. Yale and its suppliers made changes to power trains in response to the 2007 emission requirements. The Veracitor VX line was introduced at ProMat in 2005, after five years of R&D. The forklift line came in GM and Mazda engine options.

According to Yale, the Yale Veracitor GM 2.4L engine has a 0.3 g/kW-hr emission level of HC+NOx and a 22.g/kW-hr level of CO, meeting the emissions standards set for 2010. The Veracitor Mazda 2.0L and 2.2L engines are certified at levels better than the 2007 emissions standards but rank behind the GM engine in lower CO emissions, as ranked by CARB.

A History of engines and drive trains
By James Brindley,
founder of UK’s National Fork Truck Heritage Centre

As with most of the early automated materials handling equipment, engines and drive trains first appeared in the US. In about 1910 the US market saw the introduction of the first powered platform trucks. The first designs were battery-driven through a DC electric motor, which was connected to the drive wheels by a simple sprocket and chain arrangement. Gasoline engine-driven machines followed with gear boxes of differing complexity and dry clutches. Companies such as Baker and Elwell Parker built forklifts with a gasoline engine driving an electric motor, producing the first hybrids. From the 1930s, Clark had their own design transmissions including dry clutch models, "Dynotork" eletromagnetic couplings, and from 1952 "Hydrotork" fluid transmissions.

Other American companies used various engines including Continental, Wisconsin, IHC, Hercules and GMC gasoline engines to name a few. In Britain, during 1946, Conveyancer built their prototype forklift with a petro/electric system using a Standard gasoline car engine and BKB electrics. Other British mechanics fitted with gasoline engines at this time were the Wessex Wrigley using a single-cylinder Villiers engine connected to an Albion motorcycle gearbox and the Lister forklift which relied upon a JAP engine to drive their own original gear train.

It was not until 1947 that the diesel engine appeared on any forklift and this innovation was British. The leading company was Coventry Climax, which produced both an engine and a conventional gearbox with two forward and two reverse gears. The US company, Yale, followed with its diesel-powered truck in 1950, together with the first LPG fuelled engine. In 1951, the Conveyancer Company in Britain launched the first forklift using a Perkins six-cylinder diesel engine and torque converter transmission, the model DP-20P.

These are the main early innovations in engine and drive transmissions and there are many variations that apply to different companies. Most of the big name companies now use hydrostatic transmission with their diesel or LPG engines and customise them with a name to suit the product.
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