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Liebherr Launches Battery-powered Drill Rig

By Frank Raczon, Senior Editor | October 30, 2019
Liebherr LB 16 Unplugged drill rig
The Liebherr LB 16 Unplugged drill rig can run 10 hours on a charge.

Liebherr has launched the LB 16 Unplugged, a nearly emissions-free battery-powered drill rig that has been successfully tested with customers in deep foundation work.

The rotary drill features an electro-hydraulic drive concept and can be used without a cable. The battery technology is designed to last one working day—that's 10 hours unplugged—and is charged overnight using a standard construction site electric supply.

“We had doubts concerning the acceptance of a cable-powered drilling rig,” said Holger Streitz, managing director, Engineering and Design, at Liebherr’s Nenzing, Austria, plant. “Right from the start, there was the clear demand to operate for an entire working day from the energy storage unit of the machine with no cable. This was an extreme requirement and was logically tackled with our smallest drilling rig, the LB 16.

Telematics determines runtime

“The disadvantage here was the very limited size for positioning the many battery troughs,” Streitz said. “This problem could not be solved without an optimization strategy. For dimensioning the energy storage unit, work collectives of 34 diesel-driven LB 16s were evaluated. Our LiDAT telematics system provided the corresponding data in order to be able to define a reference working day. We decided to ignore the maximum values, as these only accounted for a small proportion overall. That’s how we defined the maximum possible battery size for the available installation space. Around 80 percent of all measured drill applications can be carried out in a 10-hour shift without any cables.”

Streitz used a comparison to the automotive industry regarding battery capacity, saying the LB 16’s battery capacity equals “around nine Tesla S models or seven Audi e-tron vehicles,” and would correspond to a range of to 1,864 miles.

Some of the unit’s battery troughs are positioned on the top of the housing. “The covers, which looked somewhat bulky initially, were professionally designed,” Streitz said.

Battery life, low noise

The end product does look sleek. “We knew it had to be sexy like a Tesla,” joked Liebherr Nenzing engineer Johannes Rhomberg. Liebherr said the batteries will last 10 years, and after 10 years will still achieve 80-percent capacity.

In addition to diesel fuel savings and near-zero emissions, the LB 16 operates at an extremely low noise level, a plus for urban job sites.

Customer test

The most prominent customer use so far has been on the A14 motorway at Bludenz-Bürs in Western Austria, where ASFiNAG, the Austrian publicly owned corporation which plans, finances, builds, maintains, and collects tolls for Austrian autobahns, is building a two roundabouts, two bridges, and two new connections to regional roads to alleviate traffic jams.

Contractor i+R is carrying out the deep foundation work on the project’s west side. The company faced a narrow construction site and a restricted working height because the pile foundations had to be placed directly under a power line.

The LB 16 Unplugged used on the project was designed as a low-head unit, with a shorter leader. The contractor is installing 148 piles varying between 32 and 45 feet deep, with diameters of just over 35 inches. The machine has achieved two miles a day.

“You don't have to shout all the time,” said i+R foreman Sebastian Timpe. “You can talk normally and your colleague hears, even when standing further away. Otherwise, when the engines are running at full power, they are very loud and you always have to raise your voice, which is a burden in itself. You also don't hear little things in the surrounding area, which you do now during ongoing site work.”

Project owner ASFiNAG was eager to use the LB 16 Unplugged. “Sustainability in the construction industry is not a foreign concept, but common practice for ASFiNAG. Innovative developments like the world's first drilling rig with zero emissions show that there is enough room for environmentally friendly construction practices on our construction sites,” said Andreas Fromm, managing director of ASFiNAG Bau Management.

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