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Design and Testing of Novel Hydraulic Pump/Motors to Improve the Efficiency of Agricultural Equipment

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 60(6): 1809-1817. (doi: 10.13031/trans.11557) @2017
Authors:   Farid Breidi, Jordan Garrity, John Lumkes
Keywords:   Agricultural equipment, Digital hydraulics, Efficiency improvement, Hydraulic pump/motor.

Abstract. Hydraulic systems are prevalent in agricultural machinery and equipment and can be found transmitting power for vehicle drive wheels, powering attachments, and controlling motion (booms, steering, load height, etc.). Agricultural applications of fluid power have advanced in terms of capability and efficiency, but opportunities remain for significant improvements in efficiency, noise reduction, and reliability. The average system-level hydraulic efficiency of current mobile agricultural machines is only 21.1%. Because nearly all hydraulic systems use pumps to convert engine power to fluid power, improving the efficiency of the pumps (and motors when used as actuators) significantly impacts the system efficiency. This work examines the impact of using more efficient digital pump/motors to improve the overall efficiency of agricultural equipment, such as tractors, harvesters, planters, fertilizers, sprayers, and attachments. Maintaining higher pump/motor efficiency throughout the operating range is the central principal for the energy savings. Currently used variable-displacement pumps have low efficiencies at low displacement levels due to constant losses that do not scale with the power produced. Digital pump/motors minimize these inefficiencies because energy losses scale more closely with the power produced. Experimental results indicate an average efficiency of 85% when operating at 20% to 100% displacement. This efficiency is 15% to 20% higher on average than with current variable-displacement axial piston pumps. This study demonstrates that achieving this improvement in the efficiency of the pump/motors used in tractors and harvesters alone would conservatively save $61.7 million worth of energy annually for end users in the U.S. agricultural sector.

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