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Volvo's plan B digs max power


Volvo wants a larger share of the tracked excavator market and it reckons the new B series machines will help it achieve that goal. Geoff Ashcroft took a 29-tonne EC290B to Ennstone Breedon's Ling Hall quarry in Warwickshire to see how the machine performs and independent operator John Woodward gives his View from the Cab (below)

WHEN Volvo Construction Equipment first put its name to the Samsung excavator range, many in the industry accused the Scandinavian maker of simply carrying out a badging exercise.

But that was before the firm took its B series to the drawing board. Although the range is still built in Korea, it is all Volvo.

There are currently six models, ranging from the 14-tonne EC140B to the 46-tonne EC460B. All offer more power, greater productivity and improved operator comfort over the models they replace.

We tested the 29-tonne EC290B. It is a machine that should appeal to hirers, muck-shifters and small-scale quarry operators, so we start with a detailed look at its specification.

The EC290B is a whole new entity from the ground up. Its track frame and undercarriage have been beefed up to give a longer working life and it now carries Volvo branded components - an indication of added quality built in. Volvo says the undercarriage is 140 per cent stronger than that used on the A series.

Track options remain the same, with 600, 700, 800 and 900 mm triple grousers; though grease lubricated, sealed track pin and bushings are now used. A sloping top plate with cut-outs help to get rid of muck by dropping it off the top rollers.

Turning to the upper structure, the biggest change can be found in the cab. A totally new design, it offers more internal space, more glass area for improved visibility and includes an electronic ventilation system that puts the cab under a positive pressure for a cleaner working environment.

The cab comes with anti-vandal guard brackets and better use of shock-reducing mounts. Sound insulation has led to a further reduction of in-cab noise. Flat glass panes, says Volvo, will be cheaper to replace than the curved glass used on previous Volvo excavators. John Woodward, Construction News's independent machine operator, reports below in more detail on how the cab has evolved.

Volvo has replaced the former Cummins C series 8.3-litre engine with its own low-emission D7D EAE2 model in the EC290B. The new six-cylinder turbo motor is slightly smaller in capacity at 7 litres and it delivers 192 hp against the Cummins engine's 200 hp.

But Volvo reckons the addition of electronic management and the use of an engine developed specifically for the excavator means most operators will only notice a difference each time the fuel pump is activated.

With lower working speeds - maximum rpm is 1,900 revs - and electronic unit injectors with computer management, Volvo believes the EC290B should appeal to those who are looking to trim back on diesel fuel consumption.

At the digging end, little has changed. The machine comes with a 6.2 m, one-piece main boom and dipper options are 2.55 m, 3.05 m and 4 m.

The hydraulic system does offer more flow and uses two 250 litre/min variable displacement axial piston pumps. Complementing the system are a servocontrolled changeover for the hammer/shear circuit, which avoids having to swap valves manually - a requirement of the previous generation of excavator.

There's even dampening of the slew rebound and an optimised flow control system for the best performance in each of its working modes - all part of Volvo's Contronics system, which integrates electronic management with mechanical components to provide an advanced mode control system.

The system controls four hydraulic power modes with nine specific engine rpm settings, plus Power Max and a one-touch power boost function. The latter increases digging and lifting forces for a period of nine seconds.

Power Max sets the engine and hydraulic system output to 100 per cent. All other permutations offer a compromise between productivity and fuel economy.

In line with its upgrading of maintenance throughout its heavy machinery range, Volvo has paid particular attention to service requirements on the excavator. The engine oil only needs dropping every 500 hours, and lubrication intervals for the boom can also be extended to 500 hours if the customer is willing to pay for the optional long-life oil-impregnated bushings.

Around the rear of the machine, side-hinged panels now provide easier access to the engine and hydraulic system's radiators, air filter and hydraulic pumps, while up top, a large hinged engine cover makes daily checks a straightforward affair.

It looks like the EC290B provides a greatly improved package over the previous machine but, to see how the changes stack up in test conditions, we travelled to Ennstone Breedon's Ling Hall quarry in Warwickshire.

Volvo EC290B LC

Boom: 6.20 m one-piece boom

Dipper options: 2.55 m, 3.05 m, 4 m

Max bucket: 2 cu m

Engine: 250 hp Volvo D7D 6-cylinder turbo diesel

Track options: 600, 700, 800 and 900 mm triple grousers

Track drive: Two-speed hydrostatic 3.3 km/h, 5.2 km/h

Fuel tank capacity: 470 litres

Vision clearly set on top performance


LIKE the majority of modern excavators on the market, Volvo's EC290B LC is an attractively styled machine with useful features that make it comfortable to live with.

The recently revised cab is easy to access through a wide door. Once seated, it's easy to appreciate the generous legroom and it seems as though Volvo designers have made the best possible use of the interior space.

There's plenty of storage space for site clothing, along with pockets and compartments for the many things that operators seem to accumulate.

With large areas of flat glass and slimline cab pillars, all-round vision is excellent - in particular through the right-hand side window, which is now a one-piece affair from the front to the back of the cab.

The windscreen wiper's parallel action ensures the main front glass is wiped. The lower screen can be removed and stored in the lower half of the door - it's more convenient than trying to manoeuvre the glass to a safe area at the back of the cab.

Seat adjustment covers a vast range of movements and even the most rotund of operator should be able to get comfortable. The seat also moves independently of the armrests and control levers.

When operating in dusty or cold conditions, and the front screen is kept firmly closed, the cab takes on a pressurised character. And with 13 ventilation outlets and climate control, there's plenty of cooling, heating and demisting capacity without fear of the working environment making its way into the cab.

From an operator's perspective, I found the EC290B a pleasure to operate. It is quiet and controllable, although I would have been happier with a little less movement on the control levers.

All-round performance was more than adequate in the H (heavy-duty) mode, and this improved further when P (Power Max) mode was selected.

Although P mode only raises engine speed by a modest 100 rpm, the electronic management alters engine and pump characteristics to provide a noticeable improvement in performance.

Unfortunately, we were unable to accurately quantify this improvement in our productivity testing because on-site weighing facilities were limited. This aside, the excavator coped easily with the tasks we set and only broke into a sweat on the final trenching exercise in P mode, in extremely wet, heavy going.

But on lighter duties and backfilling tasks the machine felt slow and on more than one occasion I seemed to be waiting for the dipper and bucket to complete the cycle.

Service access through large inspection doors at ground level is excellent and the whole component layout is tidy - sealed wiring and electronic controls will no doubt be appreciated.

Standard bushings offered on UKsupplied machines require greasing at 50-hour intervals and bucket pivot pins, every 10 hours.

All grease points are easy to reach and an automatic, central lubrication system is optional. But on a machine of this size and quality and with so much additional gadgetry fitted as standard, I would have expected not to have to pay extra for central lubrication.

In a touch of commonsense design, the refuelling pump has been located away from the tool box to avoid an unpleasant, oily mess penetrating the operator's tool box. Its pumping capacity is a generous 50 litres/min and it includes a clever auto shut-off device that avoids spillage when the tank is full.

Electronic monitoring and management records machine performance in perpetuity for the benefit of the user, service engineer and dealer.

In addition to simplifying fault diagnosis, it can record hours worked with a breaker, hours run at tickover, hot shut-downs and any system malfunctions. All can be downloaded and analysed on Volvo's Matris PCbased service and diagnostic system.

Given the design and quality of this excavator, it should last a lifetime, but since Volvo says 98 per cent of the EC290B is recyclable, even that is no longer a problem.

Production testing

AT ENNSTONE Breedon's Ling Hall quarry near Rugby, Warwickshire, we tested the EC290B LC on a variety of excavating tasks, including trenching and truck loading from a bench. Our test machine, a standard 29-tonner, was equipped with a 3.05 m dipper arm and a 2 cu m bucket - the latter measuring 1.67 m in width.

All measuring and recording equipment was supplied and supervised by Construction News, with Volvo providing fuel consumption recording equipment and an ADT, while the quarry supplied a wheeled loader with weighing equipment for spot checking of bucket capacities.

Construction News would like to thank quarry manager Harry Pendleton and Volvo Construction Equipment's Mark Gunns, Bob Simms and their colleagues for all their help during this test.

Truck loading

Test method: The EC290B was used to load an A30D hauler with a clay/soil mix of overburden. It was established that five passes would provide a full load and four truck loads would provide a consistent productivity assessment and fuel consumption figure.

But because the A30D wouldn't fit on the quarry's weighbridge, bucket payloads were spot checked using a wheeled loader. Material density was estimated at 1,602 kg per loose cu m. This loading test was run twice over: first in H (heavy duty) mode, then in P (Power Max) mode.


ADT loading times: 1 min 16 sec, 1 min 26 sec, 1 min 21 sec, 1 min 33 sec

Time taken to fill four ADTs: 5 min 36 sec

Total weight excavated: 71,660 kg

Fuel used: 2.44 litres

Total number of cycles: 20 Loose cu m loaded: 44.22 cu m

HOURLY RATE: H mode Output potential - loose cu m: 473.60 cu m

Output potential - weight excavated: 767.48 tonnes

Fuel used: 26.13 litres

Amount excavated per litre of fuel used: 29.37 tonnes


ADT loading times: 1 min 17 sec, 1 min 20 sec, 1 min 20 sec, 1 min 29 sec

Time taken to fill four ADTs: 5 min 26 sec

Total weight excavated: 71,660 kg

Fuel used: 2.94 litres

Total number of cycles: 20 Loose cu m loaded: 44.22 cu m


Output potential - loose cu m: 488.18 cu m

Output potential - weight excavated: 791.13 tonnes

Fuel used: 32.46 litres

Amount excavated per litre of fuel used: 24.37 tonnes

Trenching Test method: The sand/gravel ground conditions meant we could comfortably continue operating with the 2 cu m, 1.67 mwide bucket. So we set the EC290 to excavate a 2.5 m-deep trench to the width of the bucket. The test was carried out over a 15minute period with the machine first operating in H mode and all soil was discharged alongside the trench. The test was then repeated, but in P mode, to establish what gains could be made by working at maximum settings. The soil density was estimated at 2,225 kg/bank cu m, 2,017 kg/loose cu m, and the swell factor was 10 per cent.

SPOT WORK RATE: H mode Trench length: 26.2 m Volume of material excavated: 111.35 bank cu m, 122.49 loose cu m Weight of material excavated: 247.06 tonnes Fuel used: 7.31 litres HOURLY RATE: H mode Output potential - distance trenched: 104.80 m Output potential - volume excavated: 445.40 bank cu m, 489.96 loose cu m Output potential - weight excavated:

991.02 tonnes Fuel used: 29.24 litres Amount excavated per litre of fuel used:

33.89 tonnes SPOT WORK RATE: P mode Trench length: 29.3 m Volume of material excavated: 124.53 bank cu m, 136.98 loose cu m Weight of material excavated: 277.07 tonnes Fuel used: 8.94 litres HOURLY RATE: P mode Output potential - distance trenched: 117.20 m Output potential - volume excavated: 498.12 bank cu m, 547.92 loose cu m Output potential - weight excavated: 1108.28 tonnes/hour Fuel used: 35.76 litres Amount excavated per litre of fuel used:

30.99 tonnes