Cummins Power Generation
Generator manufacturers are designing today’s units to be simple to operate, diagnose and maintain, making them foolproof and suited for the challenge of rental applications.

Generators Attain Foolproof Status

Nov. 6, 2013
Generator manufacturers are designing today’s units to be simple to operate, diagnose and maintain, making them foolproof and suited for the challenge of rental applications.
Rental generators should offer quiet operation, a large onboard fuel tank, adequate cooling capacity for the operating environment and operational flexibility. (Photo courtesy of Cummins Power Generation)

Pam Meyer, equipment sales manager, Subaru Industrial Power Products
Larry Fetting, general manager, global rental segment, Cummins Power Generation
Jim Siffring, generator product manager, Atlas Copco Construction Equipment
Wyatt Franks, assistant product marketing manager generators, North America, Doosan Infracore Portable Power

RER: What are some of the key features a rental generator must have?

Meyer: The engine! Without a quality and durable engine, you don’t have a good generator.  That goes for any piece of rental equipment. If you don’t have a good engine on one end, you don’t have what it’s supposed to be powering working on the other end.

Fetting: The top features that rental generators must have are quiet operation, a large onboard fuel tank, adequate cooling capacity for the operating environment and operational flexibility. At Cummins Power Generation, we try to balance these desirable attributes because sometimes, too much sound attenuation can interfere with cooling capacity. And, a large onboard fuel tank can sometimes make the enclosure package larger than the customer wants. Operational flexibility means the generators have to be easy to operate, allow simple cable connections and have switchable voltage outputs. Of course, beginning in 2014, new rental generators in certain size ranges will be required to meet EPA Tier 4 Final emissions regulations. EPA Tier 4 Final rental generators from Cummins will have SCR aftertreatment systems but will not require diesel particulate filters (DPF) – reducing maintenance and keeping enclosures as small as possible.

Siffring: Excellent performance, versatility, excellent serviceability, transportability, and above-average resale value.

Franks: You want an easy-to-use interface so it’s clear to the end user what he should and should not touch. If an end user is confused and there’s a problem, he’s going to try to press every button. If there’s a clearly laid-out interface as well as some safety systems in place, the end user will be less likely to press every button and he’s also able to clearly explain to the technician on the other end of the phone what exactly is wrong with the machine.

Doosan Portable Power has positioned the voltage selector switch (VSS) behind a door with a trip button on it so if the user does try to open the door to change the voltage selection, the entire machine shuts off. If that door wasn’t in place, and he was able to switch the VSS, what would most likely happen is damage to the alternator, which is a pretty expensive fix. We’ve done everything we can to prevent that.

Also important is the communication the end user needs to have with the service technician. Doosan Portable Power has at-a-glance monitoring, which means vitals of a generator — fuel level, oil pressure, engine temperature, etc. — and then on the alternator side — volts, amps and hertz — all of them are displayed in analog gauges. For example, this allows the end user to easily look and see that the amp meter is at zero, and then relay that information to the service technician who can then try to help troubleshoot the problem over the phone.

In terms of access to service elements like filters and fluids and the fuel tank, it’s essential that the end user is able to easily reach those components. We’ve tried to put as many of the routine maintenance items for access on the curb side of the generator. That way if the generator is in an urban setting, the service technician isn’t in the street trying to change a filter, and instead, he’s safely on the sidewalk.

Another item that is essential in renting a generator is the fact that an end user doesn’t always know where the cable distribution will be routed. Some manufacturers put the cable hook-ups on one side of the machine and quite often it’s on the street-side because the manufacturer has put all the service elements on the curb-side or vice versa. Doosan Portable Power has positioned the cable hook-ups at the rear of the machine; that way whether the distribution cables need to go to the right or the left of the machine, its equidistance, and the generator does not need to be repositioned one way or another to try to get an extra foot out of the cable.

Describe the latest technologies and innovations in generator design.  

Generators have benefitted from advancements in emissions systems. (Photo courtesy of Atlas Copco Construction Equipment)

The obvious technology and innovation leaps have been in the emission systems. Atlas Copco portable generators have also benefitted from the best technologies from our suppliers, such as improved AVRs, excitation systems, and fuel storage improvements.

Fetting: The latest innovations in rental generator design involve meeting EPA Tier 4 Final emissions regulations with proven, compact and low-maintenance aftertreatment equipment. Cummins’ rental generators in the 150 kW to 275 kW range for 2014 will be the first to meet EPA Tier 4 Final regulations without a diesel particulate filter while also delivering up to 5-percent better fuel efficiency. 

Another innovation is Cummins’ new PowerCommand 3.3 generator controller (PCC) on new 150 kW, 200 kW and 275 kW rental units, which provides onboard paralleling and master-less load demand control in a simple, easy-to-use panel. The PCC 3.3 master-less load demand control allows paralleled generator sets to automatically turn on and off to match the actual load. This feature adds great flexibility to rental generator fleets by enabling rental inventory to be matched to a customer’s needs, and can deliver large fuel savings when unneeded generators can be automatically shut down. For rental generators, the PCC 3.3 control will be very easy to operate and have simple start/stop functions. However, for more complex applications involving paralleling or load demand control, those features will be password protected.

Franks: The latest trend is to use as maintenance-free after-treatment system as possible.  Doosan Portable Power addresses this market preference by using maintenance-free Diesel Oxidation Catalysts. DOC technology meets the Tier 4 interim emissions standards and for our engine supplier, Cummins, they’re adding a Selective Catalytic Reduction system to the DOC to reduce NOx levels even more to meet Tier 4 Final emission level requirements.

A DOC is absolutely maintenance free; SCR only requires DEF fluid to be refilled. Because Tier 4 is an additional cost not only to the rental house or the dealer, but the end user as well, there’s a trend to increase security on generators. At Doosan Portable Power, we’re doing that by putting the LoJack stolen vehicle recovery system on them if the customer would like. This means that if the unit is stolen, the owner can track the generator no matter where it is.

We’re also putting telematics on Doosan generators as an option. This means that not only can the dealer or rental house manage their fleet and see where the assets are located, but the end user can tap into this as well. If it’s on a rental site powering a pump jack in the middle of Texas, the rental company and the end user who are both responsible for that generator, can view on their smartphones or computers the status on that machine, such as, is it low on fuel? Does it need a filter change? Who can they dispatch to do it? This provides not only better management of the rental asset, but also the service assets as well.

Explain how Tier 4 emissions regulations have impacted the generator market.

Siffring: What differences can customers expect going forward?  It’s no secret that EPA emission standards have driven costs up on portable generators.  With Final Tier 4 either in place or just around the corner, we will see the next generation of emission controls come into wide use. The biggest end user impact will be the use of DEF in some applications.

Fetting: Rental customers may be concerned about the impact of Tier 4 Final requirements on generator maintenance and fuel consumption due to the use of diesel particulate filters. However, generator sets from Cummins Power Generation will meet Tier 4 Final emissions regulations using only SCR, and no diesel particulate filter (DPF).  The SCR units on these Tier 4 Final rental generators will require readily available diesel emissions fluid (DEF) that is consumed at the rate of about 4% of diesel fuel consumption. Rental dealers who choose other brands of generators equipped with diesel particulate filters may experience some added maintenance and higher fuel consumption.

From an operational standpoint, Tier 4 Final rental generators from Cummins Power Generation will deliver about 5% better fuel efficiency than previous models.  Not only will this save money for rental customers, it will also reduce the amount of diesel emissions fluid (DEF) needed. Going forward, rental dealers should expect that Tier 4 Final-compliant generator sets from Cummins Power Generation will continue to perform at the highest standards. Rental generator sets in the range of 150 kW to 275 kW manufactured after January, 2014 (and available by 2Q) will comply with EPA Tier 4 Final emissions regulations. Higher horsepower rental generator sets are subject to Tier 4 Final regulations beginning in 2015.

Describe the features and benefits of your standard generator control panel.  

Competitive pricing and total cost of ownership are considerations for rental companies looking to add generators to their fleet. (Photo courtesy of Subaru Industrial Power Products)

Our control panel has a lot of user-friendly options:

  • Hourmeters keep track of the hours of operation on the unit, which is a great way to keep maintenance schedules in check.
  • A full power switch allows the user to get the full-rated output of the generator through the 120-volt receptacle.
  • An automatic idler control lowers the engine speed when no electrical power is needed to reduce fuel consumption and muffle excess noise.

GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt) receptacles ensure operator safety and are OSHA compliant.

Fetting: Our standard generator control panel is a user-friendly display tailored specifically for use in rental applications. Easy navigation is enabled by a 320 by 240 backlit 7-inch LED display. The easy-to-use control will reduce the number of trouble calls to rental dealers, since customers will be able to configure the majority of parameters using only the display. We have customized the standard PCC 3.3 for the rental units so it has simple start/stop functions to make it very intuitive. However, the controller will also have a password-protected entry for more complex features — such as paralleling with the master-less load-control function.

Siffring: The Qc1002 controller is a very easy-to-use, full-featured controller. It interfaces with the engine data link and can report many parameters, including emission control parameters.

Franks: With Tier 4 interim, Doosan Portable Power did a great job of commonizing the units. With Tier 4 Final, Doosan Portable Power is doing an even better job. With the move from Tier 4i to Tier 4 Final, Doosan Portable Power will add more value to the machines. One way is adding features and benefits that let the end user easily interface with the machine, but also allow the end user to have more visibility into the machine.

How is Doosan Portable Power giving them more visibility into the machine? We are moving toward incorporating telematics into the control panel, but also at-a-glance monitoring. In terms of the interface, we’re trying to make it as clean and succinct as possible and dial down the number of gauges on the control panel to only include what’s absolutely necessary to be able to quickly walk by and diagnose the machine. We’re combining analog gauge information into the digital display to reduce clutter on the control panel. This is to reduce confusion for an end user when he is trying to operate a machine or communicate problems to the service technician.

What the end user will also notice is the fact that Doosan Portable Power is making the machine as safe to use as possible. There are automatic shutdowns for low fuel, low coolant, low oil pressure, or low DEF.

Definitely I’d say the greatest benefit is the clear layout. Doosan Portable Power is using automotive-quality gauges that are backlit by blue LED lights so they’re easy to see at night. End users are not fighting with white glare that they would normally get from luminescent bulbs. And the way they’re laid out is intuitive. Even at night in the dark, it’s clear which gauges are for the engine and which gauges are for the alternator.

Rental customers definitely want a dynamic machine. In Canada or near a dock, end users want a machine that can accommodate foreign application requirements. For example, if an end user needs 50 Hz application, all Doosan generators have 50/60 Hz switchable settings, which are referred to as Dual Frequency. Doosan Portable Power also offers Quad Voltage. Quad Voltage on the same machine allows the user to get 600 volts, 3-Phase out of a generator as well as 480, 204 and 120 volts. In Canada, the rental house or end user does not have to have one dedicated 600-volt machine. The same machine can be rented to multiple sites, multiple locations, and multiple applications, which means a faster ROI.

What are the top three latest trends in rental generator units?

Meyer: Competitive pricing is huge right now and it’s a trend we won’t see going away any time soon. Along with it, consumers and rental center owners are concerned with a product’s total cost of ownership and durability.

People want the best price, but they also are on the lookout for the best return on investment. We offer the longest warranty in the industry, which is also transferrable. So, for example, our rental customers are protected under warranty for three years. If they decide to sell to a contractor at that time, the contractor will have two years of warranty remaining.

Fetting: There is a trend toward smaller containers for rental generator sets above 1000 kW, which is largely driven by limiting the requirement for over-weight permits and space requirements for specific applications. Cummins Power Generation traditionally has taken a balanced approach to packaging design that minimizes overall size while providing good sound-attenuation, long run times and adequate cooling capacity. In the future, smaller containers will also be offered to address this trend.  Additionally, there is a growing demand for natural gas-powered rental units, especially in the oil patch, where units can run on flare gas. Also, there is an increased demand for telematic features for all rental generators.

Siffring: I don’t know if these are new trends, but solid build, quiet running and simple, economical operation will always be important.