Though hydraulic equipment itself is not often eco-friendly, it can be used to support many green activities. Here are 3 interesting examples of green applications of hydraulic technology.
Hybrid hydraulic vehicles offer significant fuel savings for large vehicles like buses, delivery trucks, and garbage trucks. Hydraulic hybrid technology makes use of the force generated by a heavy vehicle’s braking system to run a hydraulic pump, which can then compress gas. Releasing the pressure on this gas then provides energy to support acceleration. For large vehicles, this type of hybrid technology is more efficient than electric hybrid technology, allowing for significant reduction in fuel consumption and emissions without any worries about the environmental impact of creating electric batteries.
Trash compactors use hydraulics to crush garbage. This equipment is found in many different settings, including in plants that convert trash to energy. For example at one Pennsylvania energy recovery plant 24 piston pumps work to operate the compactor reliably in the harsh environment near the heat- and ash-producing incinerators.
In any type of large-scale construction project, you’re bound to need a crane. One green project that definitely needs help from this ubiquitous piece of hydraulic equipment is wind turbines. For example, it took two cranes 4 days to erect a 443 foot tall wind turbine, which was among the largest urban wind turbines in the US at the time. The turbine is expected to save the manufacturing plant that had it installed $500,000 in energy costs and will naturally help reduce emissions too.
Environmentally-friendly hydraulic fluid is a major area of interest for those who want to make operating existing types of hydraulic equipment more green. A number of years ago, engineers from Manitowoc National Crane actually designed a boom truck with an ENVI crane that uses vegetable oil in all its hydraulic systems and soybean bio-diesel in its engine. The truck has logged over 1,000 hours installing power poles without any difference in performance compared to a standard boom truck setup.
Other eco-friendly fluids are being designed for use in all kinds of hydraulic equipment. While these fluids are good for the planet because they are biodegradable, unfortunately they are incompatible with many materials commonly used in seals, gaskets, and hoses and require upgrades to the equipment before they can be used.