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Custom engineering some of the first user-friendly Tier 4 rental generators
In 2015, Alta Equipment Company —one of the largest construction equipment providers in the U.S.— was looking to round off their Volvo-powered product offerings. With a diverse portfolio of rentals, from heavy forklifts to carry deck cranes and lift trucks, the only thing missing was a line of powerful, fuel-efficient rental generators to power their equipment.
To design and manufacture the rental gen sets, Alta partnered with CK Power, a St. Louis-based engine and generator manufacturer and distributor.
Within about six months of first discussing the needs of the application, CK Power and Alta rolled out some of the first Tier 4 Final prime power gen sets in North America. Hailed at the time as the “latest, greatest” Tier 4 generators, the fleet was compliant, powerful and —essential for rental units— easy to use.
The problem: Designing a fleet of prime power generators for heavy duty applications
Alta Equipment needed a fleet of prime power generators built to withstand their customers’ construction job sites. And, as a Volvo dealer, they needed the generators to be powered by a time-tested Volvo engine.
But with the advent of Tier 4 Final regulations, an out-of-the-box solution just wouldn’t cut it. Alta needed a custom solution sturdy enough for the application, fuel-efficient enough for compliance and high-quality enough to meet their standards.
There were two primary hurdles to designing and distributing this gen set line: Complying with diesel emissions standards and giving the customers the education and support they needed to be comfortable operating the machines.
Complying Tier 4 Final emissions regulations
CK Power designed this fleet of Tier 4 generators at a time when the industry was just starting to adopt the Tier 4, a set of regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intended to reduce the emission of toxins such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
Today, Tier 4 solutions have been out for some time. But at the time, there were hardly any other Tier 4 products on the ground. Creating a largely unprecedented technology presented a great engineering challenge.
End-user support and education
Because Tier 4 was new, end users were wary of the units. There was a fear that the machines would be unreliable, expensive and difficult to use. Great care needed to be taken to ensure the usability and trustworthiness of the generators.
Alta tasked CK Power with overcoming these obstacles to design a resilient, powerful, user-friendly fleet of Volvo-powered rental generators.
The solution: A line of Volvo-powered, compliant generators built for the job site
Today, Tier 4 generators have been around for several years. But at the time CK Power was designing these units for Alta, this was leading edge technology, and the learning curve was steep. And since the generators were to be branded with the Alta name, they needed to live up to Alta’s reputation for quality, reliability and service.
Tier 4 compliance with a top-of-the-line emission control system
To match with the rest of Alta’s Volvo heavy equipment, CK Power used the Volvo Penta engine as the basis for the fleet of rental engines.
Volvo Penta has a two-part system to reducing PM and NOx emissions according to the EPA’s stringent Tier 4 standards: Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and exhaust gas recirculation.
The engine naturally produces lower levels of PM than other engines on the market. Then through a reaction with diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), the SCR system converts much of the harmful NOx emitted from the engine into carbon dioxide and water, both of which naturally occur in our environment.
The EGR then recirculates some of the exhaust gas back into the combustion chamber, replacing some O2 with CO2. This lowers the peak combustion temperatures of the engine and further reduces the quantity of NOx emitted by the engine. And, because the recirculated gas repurposes exhaust fumes that otherwise would’ve been wasted, it makes the unit more efficient as well.
Using the Volvo Penta engine as a starting point, CK Power designed the gen sets with everything you need for construction applications: long run-time fuel tanks, multi-voltage selection, sound-attenuated enclosures and auxiliary distribution.
Beyond compliance: Customer support and usability
Customer education and usability were at the center of the success of this product. These couldn’t just be compliant — they also needed to be easy to use for the end user.
Usability began with including all the features expected in a prime power generator for construction applications. But it also meant including small details like a DEF storage box within the unit. The storage box made the unit much easier to use for Alta’s end user, who would likely be running the unit on a remote construction site.
After the products were designed and manufactured, CK Power provided product support, service and training to Alta and their end user. End users were educated about the dependability, efficiency and affordability of the machines — and supported after the sale by both CK Power’s and Alta’s teams.
In the end, Alta and CK Power worked together to produce reliable, user-friendly fleet of Tier 4 Final gen sets using the Volvo Penta engine. A great indicator of success: Alta has a rent-to-own program, and most of this fleet has sold since they were first introduced in 2016.
About the partnership: Shared values, complementary skillsets, proven solutions
Powerful partnerships create powerful products. And this is no exception. Alta Equipment and CK Power are both family-owned companies with decades of experience in the industry. With shared values, complementary skillsets, their partnership was a match made.
Alta initially chose CK Power because of their world-class team of engineers and their passion for producing excellent products. They’ve continued working with CK Power because they stand behind their products, fixing problems as they arise. And, of course, because of mutual respect for each other’s strengths and capabilities.
As to the line of prime power gen sets CK Power produced? CK Power and Alta are continually fine-tuning the machines and rolling out improved iterations. These rentals have stood the test of time, and since they were some of the first T4F solutions on the ground, they’re proven in a way a lot of other Tier 4 machines aren’t.