Merlo has launched the eWorker, the company’s first fully electric telehandler that’s said to follow a totally new engineering concept that’ll change the way people and materials are handled.
The eWorker is the result of years of research into an alternative solution to vehicles fitted with combustion engines. From the world’s first hybrid telehandler, which Merlo built in the early 2000s and that allowed it to gain experience in a new field, the Merlo Group has now taken another step forward. However, this isn’t the final destination because the firm’s new Generation Zero is set to grow into a family of more technological and better performing green products, underlining Merlo’s ethos of innovation by tradition.
Generation Zero has been created based on four cornerstones common to all Merlo products: performance – in terms of load capacity, transfer speed and boom movement; comfort – with the study of optimal driving positions for the operator; safety – for active and passive protection of the operator; and efficiency – with a focus on reducing working time and operating costs. In addition to these, the company has introduced three more, further enhancing driver comfort, reducing the impact on the surrounding environment: zero emissions; zero noise; and zero use of fossil fuels.
These three new pillars limit the impact of the vehicle on the environment in which it operates and, even more so, on the health of the people who work with the company’s products. The Merlo Group chose to take a new and unexplored route by creating vehicles that not only reduce noise and emissions, but also offer exceptional performance with ultra-compact dimensions to achieve a level of manoeuvrability never seen before in a telehandler.
The Merlo Group developed the new eWorker to support its customers in all their daily activities, meeting the following operational needs:
- offering high traction for off-road work and at the same time to be able to operate indoors and in areas where limited environmental impact is required;
- ensuring the possibility of travelling on public roads and, if necessary, towing trailers;
- improving standards of manoeuvrability and agility in the world of telehandlers;
- increasing the versatility of the vehicle by using new solutions and equipment;
- improving working conditions for both the operator and those working near the vehicle; and
- reducing the total ownership costs and above all payback time.
To achieve these objectives, Merlo engineers have designed the new Generation Zero telehandlers starting from a blank sheet of paper and with a 100 per cent electric approach. It is, therefore, not the electrification of a conventional telehandler, but an innovative handling product that combines the advantages and winning features of telehandlers with those of forklifts. The eWorker is the result of a targeted redesign of all components, from the boom to the chassis, from the axles to the hydraulic system, in order to obtain a solution capable of maximising autonomy and performance while reducing the hourly operating costs to a minimum.
The eWorker has been designed with the aim of creating a machine that is: fully electric, but with the autonomy of a full working day; compact, with dimensions similar to those of an industrial forklift; equipped with a telescopic boom, setting a new working standard in the forklift industry; and with four ISO size, all-drive wheels of a size suitable for working not only indoors, but also off-road in the construction and agricultural sectors.
The two solutions, with two- or four-wheel drive, offer unique advantages and are designed to improve performance at work. The two-wheel drive models have been designed to increase the autonomy of the machine, with a class-leading maximum encumbrance while steering of just 2,850mm, thanks to a steering angle of up to 85 degrees. The four-wheel drive models, on the other hand, ensure maximum performance in terms of transmission, to guarantee excellent grip on all surfaces, even off-road.
During the design phase, all components and their positioning were reviewed. First of all, there’s the transmission layout with two electric motors at the front, one for each wheel, for two-wheel-drive models, and the addition of a third electric motor at the rear side, positioned vertically and flanged on the rear axle, for four-wheel-drive models. This solution, patented by Merlo, offers numerous advantages:
- layout advantages in positioning the battery in the middle of the vehicle, which has lowered the centre of gravity and increased stability;
- manoeuvrability advantages thanks to the high steering angle of the rear drive wheels; and
- advantages in the electronic traction management that guarantees the correct speed of all four wheels without slipping, the automatic insertion of the electronic differential lock and regenerative braking. These advantages translate into reduced energy consumption and increased off-road traction.
A fourth electric motor, connected to a load-sensing hydraulic pump, powers all movements of the telescopic boom. Again, in order to optimise energy efficiency, a dedicated electronic control unit manages the speed of the pump’s electric motor and the oil flow of the hydraulic distributor. In addition, to reduce battery consumption, the telescopic boom descends by gravity via a valve controlled by the same control unit.
The eWorker is designed to be used in different working environments and allows the use of a wide range of equipment. All models can be customised to suit customers’ needs. In fact, both models will be available with an open or closed cab, with different possible options, such as a heating system or boom suspension, and they can be approved for road traffic, either as self-propelled machinery or as a tractor. For applications in special working environments (for example, cold stores), a heated windscreen and a heated seat are available.
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