Caterpillar has a long-established reputation that stretches across a range of industries around the world, with the US-headquartered heavy equipment manufacturer’s flagship Cat brand drawing on a history of innovation and development, and focused on producing durable, reliable and productive machines.
It’s worth paying attention when new Cat products arrive to market, and this is certainly the case with the Cat® 988K XE wheel loader, which is Cat’s first loader featuring an electric drive system, with the emphasis firmly on delivering efficiency and productivity benefits across the scope of operations, while also driving down maintenance costs.
The numbers associated with the 988K XE are straight-up impressive, with Cat stating it delivers 25 per cent greater overall fuel efficiency than the 988K loader, along with up to 49 per cent greater efficiency in face-loading applications and up to 10 per cent more productivity in load-and-carry applications.
As Felice Stocco, Caterpillar Senior Systems Application, neatly sums it up: “Once you get in you probably won’t want to get out.”
“Effectively, Caterpillar has removed the transmission and torque converter, and replaced it with a generator and an electric motor,” he explained. “And that’s what’s driving it and making it more efficient. It’s the smoothest thing I’ve ever operated – it’s fantastic. You don’t actually feel like the gears are changing, it’s doing it all for you – it’s so quiet, it’s an awesome machine to operate.”
Robustly pieced together and built for purpose, the 52,781kg (standard operating weight) 988K XE solidly slots into Cat’s large loader line-up, radiating strength and brute durability – and, when it comes to putting it through its paces and unleashing it across a range of applications, it also reveals itself to be a thoroughly smooth operator.
Comfort In The Cab
Cat advises that the 988K XE’s cab sports a similar feel to the 988K, with slight changes delivering operators familiar functions, while improved handling smoothness and ease of operation is a key focus.
Entry and exit is aided by a fold-up STIC steer/armrest, 45 degree access stairway angles and stairway lighting – while, once at the controls, the heated and ventilated, adjustable air-suspension Cat Comfort
Series III seat is designed to deliver enhanced operator comfort and reduce fatigue, sporting leather seat bolster surfaces, a high-back design and extra-thick, contoured cushions.
Automatic temperature controls allow operators to maintain desired temperatures, with Cat advising that an enclosed pressurised structure reduces operator sound levels, while ergonomic switch and information display placement adds to the comfort and convenience factor.
Meanwhile, smart technology features are integrated to aid operators, with the 988K XE’s onboard Vital Information Management System (VIMS) displaying operating data, including real-time fuel consumption and fuel efficiency, via an interactive touchscreen display.
Cat Production Measurement allows for payload weighing in the cab, designed to enhance productivity, offering advanced weighing modes, assisting with payload accuracy and increasing loading cycle speed, and an optional Tire Pressure Monitoring System, available through the VIMS display, allows operators to view the pressure of each tire and take action if required.
A Smooth Operator
Simply put, the 988K XE is a smooth operator. I found the stability, super-smooth ride and consistent feel through the entire hydraulic range to be exceptional – putting the 988K XE through its paces, it’s neither heavy nor twitchy, and it has a predictability that I like in a machine, and I think other operators will get huge benefits from it.
The power that the 988K XE brings to the table is something else – just when you thought you may have hit the wall when breaking out material at the face, the 988K XE squeezes a little more out through the electric drive components to give you that little bit extra.
Cat advises that, like the 988K, the 988K XE runs a Cat C18 ACERT engine with 403kW net power, with it kitted out with the same mechanical dropbox, driveline and axles. The C18 meets Tier 4 Final/Stage
IV emission standards, with fully integrated electronic engine control working in concert with the entire machine, enhancing fuel efficiency, while Engine Idle Shutdown also sees less fuel used while idling.
The 988K XE’s switched reluctance electric drive system, featuring fewer moving parts than traditional torque converter and mechanical transmission systems, provides for continuously variable speed control up to maximum ground speed, while virtual gears assist with machine controllability, helping to control ground speed and deliver smooth direction shifts.
Caterpillar’s Positive Flow Control hydraulic system is designed to increase efficiency, enabling fast, productive cycles, with Cat stating that electro-hydraulic controls provide for increased operator productivity via a responsive implements feature, while precise machine control is enabled by the 988K XE’s load-sensing hydraulic steering system.
Sporting highly durable structures, Cat states that the 988K XE is built to withstand the toughest loading conditions, with the 988K XE’s solid steel lift arms absorbing high load stresses and providing excellent visibility to the bucket edges and work area via a Z-bar design, while it offers a bucket capacity range of 4.7–13m3.
The 988K XE’s rated standard and high-lift payload reaches 11.3 tonne when working with face material and 14.5 tonne with loose material, with its performance matched to offer efficient 3-pass loading of the Cat 770G and 4-pass loading of the Cat 772, while its high-lift configuration provides for 5-pass loading of the Cat 773G and 6-pass loading of the Cat 775G.
Designed To Reduce Downtime
Cat advises that the 988K XE is decked out with design features to reduce downtime, with its electric drive technology lowering overall maintenance costs, providing for extended oil change intervals of 2000 hours, with the electric drive loader using 40 per cent less powertrain oil.
The drive motor, generator and inverter are built to last with minimum maintenance through the second engine life, with the electric drive design increasing engine life by up to 3500 hours, extending the time between powertrain rebuilds.
Meanwhile, when it comes to daily service checks, swing-out doors on both sides of the engine compartment are designed to allow for easy access, with grouped service points providing for safe and convenient service via ground level or platform access.
VIMS system notifications can also help operators stay ahead of the game and reduce downtime, allowing for problems to be addressed and resolved before failure, while Cat Product Link provides for remote data monitoring via VisionLink, delivering operating data insight and assisting with machine management.