Is agriculture ready for stop/start technology?

When you speak to most major manufacturers their primary focus for research and development spend is the looming regulatory requirement of Tier5 engine emissions in 2020.

Unfortunately, customer focused benefits are being side lined in favour of meeting the increasing demands of legislation which add no real benefit to the end user – just increased cost and complexity.

With the ever-present pressure on commodity prices, our customers are looking for ways to reduce their overheads and fuel is still a major expense to most businesses.

Reviewing machine telematics, it is alarming to find that machines are spending as much as a third of their time running at idle, this is not good for a modern engine but it is also burning fuel whilst adding no benefit to the business. There are further costly implications to this - it is also adding cost to the business in additional clock hours on the machine, therefore accelerating depreciation and also inadvertently reducing the intervals between expensive services.

If you take a basic example of a Tier 4 Final JCB telescopic handler which is currently covering 1,500hrs a year, you could be increasing your costs by up to as much as £6,000 a year just by not switching off.

We are seeing manufacturers introducing auto low idle functions which have been in the construction industry for some time but as an industry are we taking the leaps forward in technology which are required to really impact a customer’s bottom line?

With duel fuel technology now commonplace in the automotive sector, surely a machine which shut down to auto idle after a set period of time and then shut down completely after an extended interval but kept key functions operating is not out of the question? If a battery cell could be constantly charged when a machine is in work to allow essential functions such as climate control, 2-way radios, GPS screens and implement monitors to be powered when in an auto stop situation then this would suit most customers.

Whether it be tractors waiting on the headland for the combine or a wheeled loading shovel waiting in the clamp for another trailer – we can all think of examples where we know we should be switching off.