With the month of April, Caterpillar has completed the production rollout for its L Series of medium wheel loaders — the spiritual successors to the OEM’s H Series of machines — designed with Tier 2 engines for markets with less regulated emissions standards.
While not delivering the latest emissions technology, the L Series capitalises in almost every other way on the very latest of Caterpillar’s wheel loader technology — sharing many components with Caterpillar’s Tier 4 Final M Series wheel loaders.
The L Series delivers increased power density, with smaller but more powerful engines, a productive economy mode, and other features for greater overall fuel efficiency.
Vincent Danloy, AME (Africa & Middle East) product application specialist for medium wheel loaders at Caterpillar, explains: “Comparing the L Series with the H Series, there is a 15% average reduction in fuel consumption with the L Series.
“Coming to the L Series from the H Series is not a revolution; it’s more of an evolution. We are leveraging the validated components being used in Europe, the USA and Japan on the M Series — so the L Series is not an M Series, but most of the main components have already been in production.”
Caterpillar began its rollout of the L Series in August 2016 with the launch of the two smaller units: the 950L and 962L, followed by the launch of the 980L in January 2017, and finally with the two mid-range medium wheel loaders: the 966L and 972L, this April.
The upgrade is a long time coming, with developed markets moving from the H Series to the K Series and finally to the M Series in the meantime. However, Caterpillar is confident that, in the L Series, it has delivered a range of wheel loaders that blends the best of its technology with the needs of customers in Africa and the Middle East.
A key example of this fact is that while the K Series and M Series moved away from the use of a steering wheel in favour of joystick operation, the L Series retains a steering wheel — as this aligns more closely with the proficiencies of operators in the AME region.
Danloy continues: “What’s important in your region when you talk to customers when they select the machine is durability, reliability and owning and operating costs. Individually, none of the features on the L Series would yield the degree of improvement that the new machines bring — it’s the integration of all the features, and how, together, they affect the performance.”
The L Series introduces major changes to all three elements of the powertrain: the engine, the transmission and the axles.
Across the range, the number of different engines has fallen from five to three, with the 950L and 962L sharing the Cat C7.1 ACERT engine and the 966L and 972L sharing the Cat C9.3 ACERT engine. The 980L then has a Cat C13 ACERT engine.
Overall, the 950L has seen the greatest increase in its power, with a rise of 22%, while the 980L, by comparison, has seen an increase of just 5%. However, the 980L has also seen a big increase in its power density compared to the 980H, which employed a larger 15-litre rather than 13-litre engine.
This exemplifies the degree to which the overall power density is enhanced with the L Series, thanks to the wide range of changes to the powertrain — enabling the machines to generate more power while using less fuel.
Danloy explains: “We now have smaller engine displacement with increased power, because advances in our injection system technology have allowed us to deliver more power while maintaining durability.”