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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

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Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics


New Tech Tuesdays: Electrification in Heavy Machinery and Equipment: Leading the Charge with TE PowerTube Connectors Rudy Ramos

New Tech Tuesdays

Join Rudy Ramos for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards electrification in various industry sectors, most notably in automotive. But significant changes are also happening in electrically powered heavy machinery and equipment, replacing traditional alternatives powered by fossil fuels. These advancements are fueled by a combination of regulatory pressures, environmental concerns, and the quest for improved operational efficiency1. Amidst these changes, the TE PowerTube Connectors, a new addition to TE’s HIVONEX portfolio, are emerging as a vanguard technology ensuring safe and reliable electrification.

OEM’s Electrification of Heavy Equipment

Companies like Caterpillar (Cat), a prominent name in the construction and mining machinery world, have been increasingly investing in electrification and report that recent efforts to electrify heavy machines are delivering significant gains in efficiency and significant reductions in exhaust emissions.

Cat’s focus on electrification includes their hybrid diesel-electric products, where they are seeing 30 percent to 49 percent fuel efficiencies2 with their mining and truck loading applications. Additionally, their large dozer electrification projects are in progress.

Cat is also committed to fully electric heavy machines that rely on a single non-engine power source and produce zero exhaust emissions. These fully electric machines are capable of regenerating power that can be reused or delivered back to the power grid.

And in an ingenious approach, Cat has developed a power assist attachment for Cat trucks that allows the use of external electric power during certain sections of the haul road, for instance, when climbing the steep road out of a mining pit. When connected to the externally powered trolley system, the truck’s propulsion system is powered purely with electricity from the power grid—reducing fuel burn by up to 90 percent while on that section of haul road.

Caterpillar is one of many heavy equipment OEMs fully vested and committed to the electrification of their major product lines. Komatsu, another giant in the construction and mining sectors, has released electric mining trucks and has showcased plans for further electrification of their heavy machinery line-up. Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) announced its commitment to launch a range of electric compact excavators and wheel loaders and stop new diesel engine-based development of these models. John Deere, known for its agriculture machinery, has been working on electrification and introduced electric concepts for tractors that are making strides in hybrid technology. Hitachi, another giant in construction equipment, has released several hybrid machines that combine conventional engines with electric motors. Liebherr, a global leader in construction machinery, has also ventured into the electrification space. Furthermore, JCB and Bobcat have introduced the first all-electric mini excavator and all-electric skid-steer loader, respectively, demonstrating their commitment to the electrification movement.

These companies, among others, are all committed to shaping the future of electrification in the heavy machinery sector.

Requirements for Heavy Machinery Electrification

The road to electrification for OEMs of heavy machinery and equipment can be an arduous one. OEMs will need to make a conscious strategic choice on EV-product offerings and development and determine which product lines or applications to target first.

On the one hand, they understand the need to wean themselves from traditional fossil fuels to power their equipment and comply with regulatory pressures, environmental concerns, and improved operational efficiencies. On the other hand, these companies understand the need and value their equipment delivers to their global customer base and how any interruption to their operations can be detrimental to their bottom line. Fundamental requirements OEMs must consider with their strategic electrification choices include the following:    

  • Reliability: With heavy machinery, any downtime can result in substantial operational and financial setbacks. The electrification components should, therefore, be highly reliable to withstand rough conditions and rigorous usage.
  • High Power and Efficiency: Electric heavy machinery demands high power throughput for operations like lifting, excavation, and hauling. Hence, the connectors and components must accommodate high currents and voltages without significant power losses.
  • Safety: Electric equipment, especially in high-power scenarios, presents risks such as electric shocks, fires, and short circuits. Components should have designs that prioritize user safety.
  • Durability: Given the operating environments of heavy machinery—often involving dirt, moisture, and extreme temperatures—the electrification components must be durable and resistant to such conditions.

Lastly, advancements in the electrification of heavy machinery hinge on battery technology. High-capacity, rapid-charge batteries have paved the way for the viability of electric heavy machinery. Modern batteries can store more energy, deliver higher power, and charge faster than their predecessors. Battery regenerative systems are now being incorporated into heavy equipment. Regenerative systems capture and store energy during operations like braking, further enhancing their efficiency. Advancements in intelligent software and control mechanisms ensure optimal energy use, predictive maintenance, and enhanced operational efficiency.

At the Forefront of the Electrification Revolution

This week’s New Tech Tuesday features TE Connectivity's HIVONEX PowerTube Connectors.

The TE PowerTube Connectors, the newest addition to TE’s HIVONEX portfolio, encapsulate all the requirements for the electrification of heavy machines and equipment and represent such advancements in the industry. PowerTube Connectors are designed specifically for challenging environments. These connectors offer superior resilience against factors like moisture, dust, and temperature variations. These connectors are also optimized for high current applications, ensuring minimal energy loss while catering to the demanding power needs of heavy machinery. The PowerTube connectors come with features that ensure protection against short circuits, misconnections, and electric shocks. Their design prioritizes user safety, making it a preferred choice for operators and technicians alike. Lastly, given the variety of machinery and their varied power needs, these connectors are designed to be versatile, fitting a range of applications without the need for a variety of different components.

Expanding TE’s HIVONEX portfolio further, the PowerTube connector series is a powerful solution that enables the future of e-mobility in trucks, buses, construction, agricultural vehicles, and other heavy equipment. These connectors are built to handle large electrical loads, with a maximum continuous current of up to 580A—depending on wire size and system temperature—and a voltage rating of 1000V and include multiple wire sizes between 35mm² to 150mm². The connectors are modular and scalable, offering options for different orientations and multiple positions per connector. This makes them suitable for a variety of vehicle subsystems, such as e-motors, inverters, and battery packs. The circular design of the connectors simplifies cable routing and assembly, thereby reducing the complexity and cost of installation. Additionally, the PowerTube connectors system provides reliable, safe connectivity thanks to IP6K9K dust and water ingress protection, Connector Position Assurance (CPA), High Voltage Interlock Loop (HVIL) safety features in each pin, and a robust design to withstand engine-level vibration.

Key Advantages of TE Connectivity's PowerTube connectors:

  • Modular and scalable design
  • Designed for high-power applications in hybrid and electric industrial and commercial vehicles
  • Ability to handle large electrical loads, with up to 580A continuous current—depending on wire size and system temperature—and 1000V
  • Options for 180° or 90° orientation and up to three positions per connector
  • Sturdy design that withstands engine-level vibration
  • 360° circular shielding that guarantees excellent EMC performance
  • IP6K9K dust and water ingress protection

Tuesday’s Takeaway

As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future, electrification in heavy machinery and equipment is no longer just a vision—it's an ongoing revolution. Ensuring that this transformation is efficient, safe, and reliable requires top-tier components that can withstand the demands of the industry. The TE PowerTube Connectors are a stellar addition to TE’s HIVONEX portfolio and are perfectly poised to lead this charge. With their combination of robustness, safety, and versatility, they encapsulate the future of electrification in the heavy machinery sector, driving the industry towards a greener, more efficient future.

 

Sources:

  1. Forsgren, Markus, Erik Östgren, and Andreas Tschiesner. 2019. “Harnessing Momentum for Electrification in Heavy Machinery and Equipment.” Mckinsey.com. McKinsey & Company. April 9, 2019. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/harnessing-momentum-for-electrification-in-heavy-machinery-and-equipment.
  2. “Growing a Portfolio of Electrified Machines.” n.d. Cat.com. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.cat.com/en_US/by-industry/mining/mining-responsibly/electrification.html.
  3. “PowerTube High Voltage Connector.” n.d. Www.te.com. Accessed August 16, 2023. https://www.te.com/usa-en/products/connectors/automotive-connectors/intersection/powertube-connector-system.html?tab=pgp-story.


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Rudy RamosRudy is a member of the Technical Content Marketing team at Mouser Electronics, bringing 35+ years of expertise in advanced electromechanical systems, robotics, pneumatics, vacuum systems, high voltage, semiconductor manufacturing, military hardware, and project management. As a technology subject matter expert, Rudy supports global marketing efforts through his extensive product knowledge and by creating and editing technical content for Mouser's website. Rudy has authored technical articles appearing in engineering websites and holds a BS in Technical Management and an MBA with a concentration in Project Management. Prior to Mouser, Rudy worked for National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments.


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