Category 18 April 2019

Elforest - electric hybrids pioneers in the sector of large industrial vehicles.

Though successful in many transportation sectors, there has not yet been a major break-through for electric hybrid technology in large industrial vehicles. The company Elforest has entered the market with an innovative electric hybrid concept which helps to reduce some of the challenges of this segment of vehicles.

The challenge

Development of sustainable transport solutions for large and heavy industrial vehicles is highly relevant due to the environmental impact from these machines: the use of fossil fuels implies carbon emissions, and the heavy vehicles are at times driven in sensitive environments such as forests. These challenges raise the need for damage-reducing techniques that can support development of low carbon- and nature-protecting heavy transport solutions. In addition, there is a growing demand for improved performance and solution in energy efficiency in transport from manufacturers of industrial vehicles.

The innovation

The company Elforest Technologies in Sweden has succeeded in the development of an electric hybrid concept for industrial vehicles within the range of 5-30 tons. The concept is based on the company's patented "Electric turbo" technology, which controls the powertrain and ensures that the combustion engine is operating at optimum speed and that the additional battery powered electric motor can quickly handle power peaks. As in other electric hybrid technology, the electric motor is also used as a generator converting mechanical energy to electrical. The energy is stored in the vehicle battery, recharging when possible. The complete technology has achieved a TRL of 8.

A particularly successful example of an application of this novel solution comes from the field of forestry management. The engines in forestry equipment must be able to lift heavy trees and therefore require short duration, high-power output.  The company has developed a system which is compatible with almost all forestry machine brands: a diesel-electric hybrid concept where batteries help cope with short peaks in power use. This enables the use of much smaller diesel engines than non-hybrid systems do. The batteries are charged through mechanical conversion of energy when the machine is running downhill.

The system helps to reduce fuel consumption and prototypes have shown savings up to 35 % with associated reductions in CO2-emissions, which improves the carbon footprint of the forest supply chain.  In addition to the hybrid electric drive, Elforest has developed a wheel-tracking technology that reduces soil damage due to the individual wheel steering, which also helps reduce the damage from industrial vehicles in sensitive environments.

Why did it work?

The company Elforest was founded in 2006 to develop the world's first forest machine with electric hybrid technology, in collaboration with the Swedish Energy Agency and the forestry companies.  Elforest has thereafter received support through venture capital for development, demonstration and commercial exploitation, as several Swedish venture capital companies have become partners. 

Further deployment

Elforest technologies is now a technology consulting firm specialized in hybrid technology, providing consulting, electric hybrid components and licenses for their patented technology. They are continuously developing and selling prototypes of hybrid solutions to vehicle manufacturers on the Swedish and Finnish market, and future plans of the company involve an expansion to the European market.