Driving forces

Which factors influence engine technology development?

Few industries have seen the same kind of technology development as the forest machine industry. And the driving forces behind this development have seen equally large changes. In the beginning, development was mostly about optimizing production. Today, the array of requirements is far more complex and includes everything from the financial means of individual forestry contractors to the global environment.

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Environmental requirements

Global environment and climate issues have been increasingly prioritized since the 1990s. Emissions of greenhouse gases, such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), have been under the microscope. For forest machine manufacturers, this is most tangible in the emission legislation of the EU and the USA; legislation that regulates a systematic increase in emission control to cut emissions of NOx and particulate matter (PM) leading up to 2014. The serious nature of the legislation is seen in the rapid rate of reduction – from a 29% NOx reduction and a 10% PM reduction in 1996 to a full 97% reduction of both NOx and PM by 2014 (see illustration). This has resulted in the development of various emission control technologies by forest machine manufacturers.

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Legal requirements clean the air

Emission legislation prescribes an impressively healthy reduction in emissions, from the initial step in 1996 (the large dark-gray rectangle) to the fourth step in 2014 (the small blue rectangle).

Different names, equal in the eyes of environmental law

'Tier' and 'Stage' are the American and European designations respectively for the steps toward the increasingly reduced emissions regulated by emission legislation.

Economic requirements/Fuel consumption

In many countries, the price of diesel almost doubled between 2001 and 2011. This means that today forest machines must often clock up many operating hours in order to achieve acceptable levels of profitability. So it's little wonder that forest machine owners welcome every small improvement in fuel efficiency.

Productivity requirements

Naturally, increased production is also a way for forest machine contractors to improve their profitability. Engines offer development potential, although machines are already working at close to maximum through the use of shifts. What's more, increases in productivity through, for example, greater engine power risk jarring with environmental requirements. As such, Komatsu Forest is wiser to invest in smarter control over – and the optimization of – engine power and the use of the latest technology to reduce fuel consumption.