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Sustainable drive technology for mobile machines

Can you really operate a go-kart, road sweeper, or draisine with the drive technology of an electric forklift truck? Of course you can. The “eMotion” concept from our KION subsidiary Linde Material Handling shows just how well it works. The components and drive elements have been successfully used at airports and railway stations, as well as in agriculture. This cross-border application underlines the flexibility and innovative spirit of the KION Group.


Johanna Wachner

The kart driver in a bright red racing suit, the visor of his helmet down, his hand on the steering wheel, concentrates entirely on the track in front of him. The kart is surprisingly quiet, but the acceleration almost takes your breath away. Because inside this hot rod is not just any electric motor, but one that provides extra power. The drive was actually not originally developed for go-karts, but for Linde Material Handling electric forklift trucks in order to lift loads weighing several tonnes many meters high.

KION subsidiary Linde Material Handling developed the kart drive in close collaboration with CRG in Italy. CRG is synonymous with efficiency in the world of karting – just as KION is in the intralogistics world. At first glance, the unusual partnership between the two companies is part of Linde eMotion, a division that specializes in using modular components from forklift truck technology in completely new contexts.

Adapting existing technologies

“Our goal from the outset was to make the electric drive technology developed for forklifts accessible to external customers,” says Head Wolfgang Klüpfel, recalling the creation of Linde eMotion in 2010. At that time, his division was still a sales arm of Linde Hydraulics. After Linde Hydraulics was separated from the group and sold, eMotion was repositioned in 2018 as a division of Linde Material Handling GmbH under Klüpfel’s leadership.

Linde eMotion’s mission is not to invent its own technologies, but to adapt existing drive systems from the forklift sector—from motors and inverters to controllers and peripherals—and optimize them for new areas of application. As a result, and thanks to tailor-made software solutions, Linde eMotion has now reached a wide range of customers in the mobile machinery sector. “This comprises, in particular, machines for agriculture, construction, and municipal services,” says Klüpfel. “It increasingly includes use at airports, where our components play a growing role.”

Green drive for airport logistics

One example of the success of this strategy is the lively Munich Airport, a hub that handles over 400,000 flight movements and 350,000 tonnes of cargo each year. The Cargo Master CML7 Green Line, an electronic container loader from Laweco, has been in use here since 2011 to transport goods in an environmentally friendly and efficient way—equipped with Linde eMotion technology. In contrast to conventional models, the Cargo Master produces no emissions and saves around 7,800 liters of diesel per year.

Powered by two 25-kilowatt electric motors, the container loader lifts loads of up to seven tonnes. An innovative multiple hydraulic block, developed by industrial service provider Eriks, offers finely tuned control options. These include lifting, positioning, and turning the containers, with a particular focus on energy efficiency and engine conservation.

Efficient maneuvering thanks to lithium-ion batteries

Forklift technology can also be used in modern draisines. The rail vehicles have almost nothing to do with the romantic clichés of Wild West comics, but occupy a central position in railway operations. Draisines are indispensable, especially for maneuvering railcars and carriages.

In a pioneering partnership, rail-road vehicle specialist Zwiehoff has opted for Linde eMotion to equip the ROTRAC E2 and E4 maneuvering vehicles with an electric drive. The technology, taken directly from Linde Material Handling’s forklift engineering, enables the vehicles to operate efficiently both on rails and on the road. The draisines were awarded the 2013 industry prize for their outstanding technological, economic, and ecological value.

The first model in the series, the ROTRAC E2, is capable of pulling loads of up to 250 tonnes. Its successor, the ROTRAC E4, can even pull up to 500 tonnes thanks to improved components. Both models produce no emissions and offer significant fuel savings compared to traditional diesel shunting locomotives (which consume up to 3.5 tonnes of diesel per day). Deutsche Bahn is using the vehicles both in everyday operation and in an innovative pilot project dedicated to fully automated maneuvering.

Research and development innovations at eMotion

The success of Linde eMotion is essentially based on the continuous development of technology and innovation within the entire KION Group. The close partnership with the Group’s CTO (Central Technology Organisation) means that Linde eMotion has access to the latest developments and modules, which are then tailored to the specific needs of mobile machines. “Thanks to my networking with all of the CTO departments, I know exactly which technologies are suitable for eMotion applications at any given time,” explains Klüpfel.

In future, Klüpfel and his colleagues plan to expand the portfolio by including energy systems such as fuel cell systems in addition to lithium-ion batteries. These advanced technologies are designed to help mobile machine customers transition to greener energy solutions. After all, Linde eMotion not only aims to be the industry leader in terms of performance and quality, but also in terms of ecological sustainability, as demonstrated in urban cleaning, for example.

“Green” municipalities thanks to Linde eMotion

Municipalities are faced with the challenge of not only keeping roads and inner cities clean, but also achieving this task efficiently and ideally emission-free. As part of a progressive collaboration, Val'Air, a French specialist in sweeping technology, has developed an electric road sweeper together with Linde eMotion.

The integration of the robust forklift technology into the design was achieved in the space of just three months, resulting in four different models. The vehicles feature a compact design, maneuverability, and flexibility, making them particularly suitable for use in densely built-up urban and industrial areas.

Val'Air converted the vehicles, which were originally equipped with small combustion engines, to electric motors in series production. This provides the machines with an operating speed of up to 30 km/h, which is reduced to 10 km/h for sweeping operations. The drive technology used, including an electric asynchronous motor and advanced control systems, comes directly from the series production of Linde forklift trucks. The technology ensures low-emission and efficient cleaning performance.

Electric drive technology from the KION Group

Linde eMotion therefore plays a crucial role in the transformation of mobile machines. Through the use of advanced drive technologies and continuous further development, Linde Material Handling is driving electrification not only in its own vehicles, but also in completely different industries and areas of application. In this way, the KION subsidiary is making a significant contribution to greater sustainability and efficiency in the industry.