Increasingly strict environmental standards, companies’ emission-reduction objectives, the opportunity to gain energy and operating cost savings as well as the desire to minimize noise pollution and exhaust emissions in working environments encourage the manufacturers of mobile machinery and commercial vehicles to switch from combustion engines to electrical energy systems. For Comatec, this has meant breaking new ground; in addition to mechanical and automation design, the company is now also known for design services related to the electrification of mobile machinery and commercial vehicles.
In the passenger vehicle sector, fully electric vehicles and rechargeable hybrids have only become more common in recent years, whereas in the field of mobile machinery and commercial vehicles, the electric powerline revolution has been underway for a long time.
– For example, in harbors and mining environments, where electricity is readily available, operators have replaced combustion engines with greener alternatives to reduce local emissions. We here at Comatec have decades of experience in various mobile machinery environments, which is why it is only natural that we have also become increasingly specialized in the design of electric power lines,” says Business Unit Manager Janne Hirvonen.
In a typical design project, Comatec is to explore the possibility of changing the energy system of an existing mobile machine from, e.g., a diesel engine to an electric power line.
– When it comes to technology, we rely on existing, tested and safe commercial options. Thanks to our unique modeling environment, we can compare different options and conceptualize solutions that meet the customer’s needs in a very agile manner. Modeling also helps us, for instance, optimize the energy efficiency of the machine or make some other adjustments to its operation. We often get involved in product development early on in the project, which allows us to weigh different options and compare related costs, as well as support the company in its decision to invest. This saves both effort and money, points out Hirvonen.
Comatec’s services are always tailored to the customer’s needs – as a partner, Comatec can be in charge of the entire product development process or only provide the customer’s design team with additional resources, if necessary.
Samuli Alanen works at Comatec on vehicle electrification and is also responsible for the development of the company’s customized modeling tool. The tool, which is based on the commercial Simulink modeling environment, is developed particularly for the mobile machinery environment.
– Usually, we have comprehensive initial information on the machine on which the design process is focused and the desired output, such as power and operating time. The actual design will start with, but certainly not be limited to, the conceptualization of the electrical energy system. The work involves a great deal of mechanical design, heating and cooling design and automation design and is made easier by the fact that we at Comatec have expertise in a wide range of areas, says Alanen.
Comatec has been collaborating with Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) in a determined manner to increase the company’s design expertise in the field of vehicle electrification. Lauri Hietalahti, Senior Lecturer in Industrial Engineering at TAMK, has been working part-time as an expert at Comatec for several years.
– I believe that the close collaboration has been mutually beneficial. The university has been involved in numerous design projects carried out by Comatec and provided training as well as participated in training, thus increasing human capital that meets Comatec’s needs. This kind of collaboration provides great opportunities to future professionals, and many of our students have, in fact, been employed by Comatec, says Hietalahti.
According to Hietalahti, there will also be demand for experts in the field in the future, as electrical energy systems are here to stay.
– In my opinion, electrical mobile machinery and commercial vehicles will become more and more popular when, along with the development of battery and charging technology, mobile machinery will get enough power to last the entire working day and the operating range of vans and trucks will consequently increase. What is more, electric power lines also enable the utilization of hydrogen, the next new ‘thing’ in the energy revolution, as a source of energy. This, on the other hand, will gradually be reflected in the work of engineers, says Hietalahti.
Text: Marianne Valta