£22m project to develop a new generation of off-road machines

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A consortium led by the Scottish technology firm Artemis Intelligent Power has secured £11m from the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK to help develop a new generation of ‘Digital Displacement’ hydraulic pumps and motors to be used in off-road vehicles

Artemis will collaborate with global manufacturer Danfoss and Scottish firm Robbie Fluid Engineering.

The 42-month long project will be run from the Artemis base in Loanhead and is expected to bring new skilled jobs and investment in its wake.

The consortium believes the Digital Displacement technology they are developing will radically improve performance and reduce fuel consumption in off-road machines – it is forecast to make CO2 savings of 10 million tonnes over the first ten years of commercial operation.

Once fully developed, the emissions reduction of each Digital Displacement excavator will be equivalent to taking 18 diesel family cars off the road.

Artemis Managing Director Niall Caldwell said: “This UK funding will enable our world-class engineering team to develop Digital Displacement technology as a major component in the $3.5bn [~£2.7bn] off-road vehicle hydraulic machinery market.

“Off-road vehicles today use hydraulics for propulsion and working functions, such as digging and lifting. Hydraulics are very compact, robust and cost-effective – but there’s a hidden problem. When we tested a standard excavator, we were shocked to discover that most of the work done by the engine is wasted as heat inside the system. Rather than focusing on the engine itself, we realised that the most cost-effective way to reduce the fuel consumption and emissions of these machines is to eliminate this waste, by improving the efficiency of the hydraulic system.

“The problem is that the ‘analogue’ hydraulic mechanisms under the hood waste energy and are difficult to interface to modern digital control systems, resulting in excess fuel consumption and emissions. These old mechanisms have done sterling service for over 100 years – so change is well overdue. With Digital Displacement we are leading hydraulic power into the digital age by embedding digital control into the very heart of the machine. Now hydraulics can compete with electrical drives on efficiency and control, offering a new roadmap towards the low-carbon future for this industry.

“Ultimately, the Digital Displacement off-road vehicles of the future will have smaller engines, be cheaper to run and use less than half the energy – whether that energy comes from fossil fuel, hydrogen, biogas or batteries. It is a technology that pays for itself, requires no sales subsidy and will make a very positive impact on the environment.

“It’s not enough to invent these technologies in the UK – we also need to manufacture here and export round the world. This announcement paves the way for the UK to take the lead in a low-carbon technology with global potential.”

Artemis Digital Displacement technology has already been tested in a 16-tonne excavator as a ‘straight swap’ with the existing hydraulic pump. This initial trial showed fuel savings of over 20% and significant improvements in productivity.

This new project will enable the consortium to make a ‘fully digital’ hydraulic hybrid system. This would completely replace analogue pumps and valves with Digital Displacement technology.

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