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Breaking through the ‘Glass Ceiling’

Cooper Specialised Handling are announcing the release of Sany’s first full-size, fully electric empty container handler capable of handling 7 x 9’6” boxes 7 high in either single or double-stacking format. The machine first entered testing in 2019 and will be available in the UK in late 2020 or early 2021.

Firstly, the term ‘full-size’ is important here. Whilst electric 25 tonne forklifts are readily available, this is not simply replacing the lift carriage and forks with a container frame, in theory, coverts a lift truck into a container handler. The low cab, short wheelbase and low mast height will be restrictive to 3, maybe 4-high handling. Full size refers to the ability to reach 7 x 9’6” containers high which will also necessitate a rear, high mounted cab in order to provide visibility to the highest stacks. The Sany SDCE90K7 therefore is expected to fulfil exactly the same operational requirements as its full-size diesel powered equivalent.

The SCDE90K7 provides a peak power of 600kW which is distributed over 3 electric motors. One motor is dedicated to machine travel (with regenerative braking to capture energy). A second electric motor is dedicated to lifting and lowering (also with regenerative braking) and a third electric motor undertakes auxiliary functions such as steering and spreader control. The system works on a 630volt electrical system with no gearbox – the drive motor is directly connected to a wet-brake drive axle via a conventional axial differential. The batteries are located at the rear of the machine and contribute to the conventional ballasting.

The battery has a size of 332kwh which will provide a continuously working shift of 8-10 hours. Full recharge is available over 1 hour if required although this is not recommended as a routine. It is calculated that even after 4000 charging cycles, the battery efficiency will be at 80% and still capable of working a 10-hour shift if only consuming 23kw /hr. A cooling system keeps the batteries at 40-55 degrees with any excess heat-take-off being re-used for cab heating

In respect of performance the Sany SCDE90K7 compares favourably with its diesel equivalent. Lift speeds are higher than diesel, whilst the travel speed has been purposely restricted to 20km/hr. Diesel equivalents can reach 25km/hr however research has suggested top speed does not impact greatly on container productivity as much as acceleration. In this respect the Sany SCDE100K7 can reach top speed in 8 seconds whereas the diesel takes four times longer. Top speed of 25km/hr therefore, whilst possible for an electric machine, consumes disproportionately greater energy with a consequential minimal benefit to container productivity.

Maintenance costs are just 25% of the diesel machine. This is a consequence of doubling the service intervals and each service taking half the time. As one would expect with electric machines, the noise is reduced and is as low as 68db(A) at driver’s ear.

Sany have clearly thought with a clear head to meet the challenges of electrifying heavy capacity plant where every energy release is captured and subsequently reused in order to retain and extend battery life.

Notwithstanding all of this technical content, the most impressive aspect of this new technology is the payback. This being defined as the operational time it takes to claw-back the increase in capital investment. Hybrid container machines are so expensive that the payback is only achieved on the life expiry of the machine – this could take 20 years and they are still burning diesel! The Sany SCDE90K7 will return its extra investment costs within the first year of operation such is the small increase in cost and the savings achieved through battery recharging. It is estimated that the cost per container with the electric variant is just 15% that of the diesel – that is over 6 containers per every one moved with the diesel equivalent – game-changing.

Thus, 80 years after electrification first found lift trucks, and subsequently ventured into differing channels involved in warehousing and industry it has, finally, reached mobile container handling and the previously unattainable, unthinkable, unbreakable ‘glass-ceiling’ has finally been shattered.

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Editor’s Notes

Operating in all sectors of heavy lifting across the UK and Ireland, Cooper Specialised Handling is the exclusive UK distributor for SveTruck, RAM Spreaders, Telestack bulk material handling conveying systems and Sany mobile handling equipment, sole UK importer and exclusive distributor for Mantsinen cranes, Movella Translifters, TEC Containers and a long-term specialist in Konecranes lift trucks.  The company, which celebrated 20 years in business in 2018, also has a dedicated after-sales division, Cooper Handling Solutions, which specialises in engineering support.

Independently owned, Cooper offers total solutions in both solids and bulk handling. Its customised solutions comprise high quality, high value products and reliable service for businesses operating in the most challenging heavy handling environments, including ports, freight handling, inter-modal terminals, manufacturing and other heavy lifting industries.