Earthmoving Report: Komatsu Wheel Loader Boosts Fuel Efficiency

By Rod Sutton, Editorial Director | April 18, 2011

Komatsu WA380-7 is the company’s first wheel loader larger than 75 horsepower with a Tier 4-Interim diesel, the 191-horsepower Komatsu SAA6D107E-2. Although net horsepower is the same as the Dash 6 predecessor, the Tier 4-I diesel delivers 10 percent better fuel efficiency, Komatsu says.

Its Tier 4 solution uses an advanced electronic control system to manage air flow rate, fuel injection, combustion parameters, and aftertreatment functions. Hydraulically actuated Komatsu Variable Geometry Turbocharger (KVGT) and an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve enable the engine to be more precise in its use of air and will extend component life. The company has designed its Komastu diesel particulate filter to not interfere with daily operation while keeping the operator aware of its status.

Another first for the loader is the Komatsu SmartLoader Logic that helps save fuel by automatically decreasing engine torque when the loader isn’t working hard, such as when it is driving with an empty bucket. It functions automatically and doesn’t interfere with operation, which product manager Mike Gidaspow says saves fuel without decreasing production.

“It senses what the machine is doing and what its working conditions are,” Gidaspow says. Komatsu has increased the number of sensors on the machine as part of its Tier-4 solution, and the computers are faster than those used on the Tier 3 engines, so Komatsu is leveraging the technology to develop more precise controls, he says.

“It’s seamless to the operator. You’re not going to feel any difference in performance, and at the end of the day you’ll put less fuel in it.”

A newly designed large-capacity torque converter with lock-up is standard on the WA380-7, and the lock-up function activates in 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears to give the loader a maximum ground speed of 25 mph.

The increased tractive effort improves hill-climbing ability by allowing the loader to upshift gears faster. In load-and-carry applications, the WA380-7 can achieve higher gear ranges and maintain higher ground speeds. In most applications, according to Komatsu, the wheel loader will perform with greater production and and fuel efficiency that the Dash-6 version.

The loader has a new cab with lower front glass and dashboard for improved visibility. Electronic Pilot Control (EPC) levers and an F-N-R switch are part of a redesigned seat-mounted right-hand console. Also new is a 7-inch LCD monitor that has enhanced capabilities. The operator can modify settings for items such as auto idle shutdown or auto-reversing fan. Operational records can also be displayed, such as working hours or fuel consumption, and the operator can monitor the machine’s diesel particulate filter and maintenance intervals. A separate high-resolution back-up camera is standard with every machine and is mounted on the right-hand side of the console for operator convenience.

Specifications of the WA380-7 are comparable to the Dash 6. The loader’s operating weight is 39,900 pounds, and it has a bucket breakout force of 35,495 pounds with a general-purpose bucket. Dumping clearance is 9 feet 8 inches with a maximum reach of 3 feet 9 inches. A high-lift-boom version will be introduced later this year. 

The loader also features increased cooling capacity, wider cooling fin spacing, and standard auto-reversing fan. It comes equipped with Komatsu’s EMMS (Equipment Management Monitoring System), whose diagnostic features provide greater monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities.

As with all Komatsu machines, Komtrax telematics technology comes standard.