Yanmar, ELEO Announce Electrification Strategy for Off-Highway Sector

Yanmar aims to offer customers plug-and-play electrification with power from ELEO.

ELEO plans to expand production capacity at its facility in the Netherlands. (Yanmar)

Yanmar announced its strategy for electrification of future off-road powertrain offerings at the Bauma 2022 conference in late October. During a presentation, Yanmar declared its intention to establish itself as an all-in-one provider for electrified powertrains tailored to the application-specific needs of individual OEMs.

Yanmar displayed a prototype electric excavator powered by 48-volt batteries with fast charging capability. (SAE Media)

“Our goal is for our customers to be able to outsource all electrification work to Yanmar,” said Carlo Giudici, director industrial powertrain for Yanmar Europe. “Yanmar will take care of all system integration. The OEM just needs to sketch the main features of their machines. A Yanmar engine is a fully integrated component, (and) our E-powertrain will retain the same trademark as our diesel engines.”

A Long time coming

Yanmar reportedly has been preparing for this announcement by carrying out R&D and concept development for several years within the realm of BEVs, hybrid powertrains and fuel-cell applications. The acquisition of battery supplier ELEO in April also was a key indicator of Yanmar’s intention to offer electrified solutions in the off-highway sector. “This acquisition allowed us to integrate ELEO’s advanced battery technology in our e-powertrain portfolio,” said Giudici.

Bas Verkaik, co-founder of ELEO, was on hand to describe some of the challenges that electrifying off-highway machines presents and how ELEO’s technology will enable Yanmar to succeed in its efforts to offer a fully integrated solution for its customers.

Yanmar states that it will handle all system integration for its electrified powertrains. (Yanmar)

“A lot of people think (because) we have electric cars that we can just transfer this technology to the off-highway segment,” said Verkaik. “But it’s not that simple. The main difference is how these systems are being produced and the volumes behind them,” he explained. “If you look at light vehicles, it is a high-volume, low-mix market. Those OEMs can manufacture hundreds of thousands of units, which means the development costs can be won back over those sales.”

Verkaik continued “The off-highway industry is so different because it is high-mix, low-volume. There are thousands of different applications, each with difference sizes, use cases and requirements, which also bring different requirements to the battery system.” To enable the mass electrification of these machines, ELEO intends to offer a new generation of batteries which are purpose-built for this market.

A scalable solution

ELEO’s electric powertrain components are designed to be as scalable as possible for a wide array of applications. (Yanmar)

Verkaik stated that ELEO has created a scalable and flexible architecture which can be adjusted to meet the specific requirements of a wide array of applications. “You can easily change the shape, operating voltage and energy content of these battery systems to precisely meet the requirements that this industry has,” he said. “We make use of standardized components to make customized solutions.”

Yanmar and ELEO’s goal is to provide an electrification solution that can be easily integrated by their OEM customers; shown is a battery controller. (Yanmar)

“It is important to have a lot of flexibility for this sector,” he continued. “You need to make a battery system which is purpose built for a specific machine. We also need to maximize the performance so that we can truly better than what is currently available. Because only then can we accelerate this transition to cleaner applications.”

Energy density has long been a leading concern for the electrification of the off-highway sector. To that end, Yanmar and ELEO have come up with a solution that they believe will keep any machine on the job for an entire workday.

“People are used to working a full day with these machines, they don’t want to keep charging them constantly,” said Verkaik. Yanmar claims that its system, combined with ELEO’s battery packs, will offer one of the most energy-dense solutions on the market and will be capable of keeping nearly any machine on the job for an entire workday.

Safety first

Operational safety also was a major design consideration for Yanmar and ELEO. “We have own unique BMS [battery-management system], which ensures that each battery is always operating at safe limits,” Verkaik said. “If that limit is exceeded, our battery can shut itself off so that it always remains safe.”

ELEO’s battery pack also utilizes unique propagating prevention technology to preclude a problem in one cell from spreading through the entire pack. Verkaik described how the failsafe system works for the pack: “If something happens to a cell, we will ensure that the problem will never spread through the cells next to it.”

All cells will be maintained at a very similar temperature via a liquid coolant that flows through each of the cells within the pack. Verkaik maintained that their consistent thermal conditions under all circumstances means the battery can be used to its maximum potential.

The system also is set up to readily communicate all relevant data to the OEMs so that they can act upon it. “We’re making it as easy as possible for our customers to integrate these batteries into their application,” Verkaik said.

Coming soon

Yanmar stated that it plans to commence system engineering, design and manufacturing of e-powertrains, while also providing control development, system evaluation and manufacturing.

No production schedule was given at the presentation, but Yanmar did showcase its electric powertrain tech via a miniature electrified excavator on display at its Bauma-show booth. The excavator was powered by an electric drive and 48-volt batteries with fast charging capability.

ELEO is building a new battery production plant in the Netherlands to support Yanmar’s efforts. Their goal is to increase annual battery production capacity to approximately 10,000 battery packs annually.