Beating out a field of 393 entrants vying for an Innovation Award at Germany’s Agritechnica in November, Merlo’s Turbofarmer 40.7 Hybrid telehandler was one of only four products deemed worthy of a gold medal, the show’s highest engineering accolade.
The company’s president, Amilcare Merlo, made an emotional acceptance speech during the medal presentations at a special evening event during Agritechnica week. “It’s very special for us (as an Italian company) to win an award like this in Germany,” he said through an interpreter. “That makes it worth double.”
Merlo is no stranger to coming up with engineering firsts. In 1987 it patented the low-slung, centre-mounted cab, which increased overall telehandler stability and has since become the industry standard.
With the introduction of the 40.7, Merlo becomes the first company to produce a diesel-electric telehandler, making it one of a very few hybrid farm machines of any kind to hit the market so far. According to Amilcare, it’s a direct result of the family-owned company’s ongoing R&D program that has an annual budget equal to eight per cent of the firm’s turnover.
“The Hybrid 40.7 is one of the successful results of the Merlo strategy that aims at producing innovative products for a future that will go beyond fossil fuels,” reads a corporate publication outlining the features of the new machine.
In a press release, the company acknowledged that the 40.7 was developed by Merlo engineers in collaboration with the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at the Turin Engineering Institute in Italy. “This success is the result of many years of collaboration between the Merlo SPA and the research group coordinated by Prof. Aurelio Soma,” it reads.
Back at the exhibit hall following Amilcare’s passionate speech the night before, product reps were still a bit protective of any engineering secrets incorporated into the 40.7, preferring not to open any panels and let a nosy Canadian editor snap pictures of the “modular” components. (The company claims their modular approach will allow the hybrid system to be quickly incorporated into other models.) But they were willing to talk about some of the 40.7’s specifications.
Using a pack of lithium batteries rated at 30 kilowatt hours, the 40.7 can operate for a maximum of two hours on only electric power. That allows it to operate inside closed buildings without added ventilation or where quiet operation is important. It can also go for four hours in “Eco” mode, relying on some diesel engine use.
Powering the 40.7 is a 75 horsepower, four cylinder diesel engine, which is much smaller than the engines typically found in standard telehandlers of the same capacity. But the company claims it can still deliver performance equal to those machines using larger engines.
The small diesel runs a generator that provides current to the electric traction motor, which delivers torque to the axles through a two-speed mechanical transmission capable of a 40 km/h. road speed. In hybrid mode the engine can be set to run at a fixed 1,200 or 1,800 r.p.m. to power the generator for machine use and recharge the battery pack at the same time. When working with the engine running, the company claims the hybrid operation allows for a 30 per cent savings in fuel consumption.
The battery pack can also be recharged from an outlet by plugging in the machine when not in use.
The 40.7 has a maximum load rating of 4,000 kilograms with a lift height of 7.1 metres, and it can extend that load forward 3.7 metres.
There is also a more comfortable, redesigned cab that has an interior width of 1.01 metres. And the door is 87 centimetres wide for easy access. An operator can control the shuttle function using the right-side joystick or through duplicate controls at the steering wheel. A new dual-zone HVAC system keeps the cab temperature even and comfortable.
Scott Garvey is machinery editor for Grainews. Contact him at [email protected]