Review: Takeuchi TB216H hybrid mini excavator

By: Ron Horner

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  • Earthmovers & Excavators

The Takeuchi TB216H hybrid mini excavator has been designed to fit into the smallest of spaces. Ron Horner came away impressed with its design and versatility.

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Earlier this year at the Diesel, Dirt and Turf Expo in Penrith, I was fortunate to meet up with a couple of old mates from years past and was invited out to the SEMCO Branch in Western Sydney (Takeuchi dealers).

The ‘Murph and Sach Show’ still motors on in leaps and bounds and, as the Takeuchi brand has always been one of my favourite excavators, I could not pass up the opportunity to go and check out this little Hybrid 1.9t Mini Takeuchi Excavator.

Always innovative, the team from the Takeuchi factory in Japan have developed a new hybrid (diesel and electric) powered excavator in an effort to provide a machine suited to a niche market where noise, pollution and confined spaces have previously been an issue.

Excavators powered by electricity have been used in Europe for some time. About 10 years ago in Paris, Takeuchi exhibited its fully electric model TB016. However, the high cost of batteries at that time (and still today) has inhibited the general market acceptance of these models.

Takeuchi has decided that the time is now right to introduce an electric hybrid excavator where both the diesel engine and an electric drive have been incorporated into the design. The Takeuchi TB216H hybrid excavator introduces the concept to Australia in the sub-two tonne excavator category.

Electric motor cowling


The first thing you will notice on this Takeuchi is the compact nature of this little beauty.

Don’t let the size of this machine deter you from looking at it closer because this has some unique options not available to many excavators on the market in Australia at this point in time.

Takeuchi mini excavators remain one of the most popular makes of machine for construction, utilities and hire – now hire companies have an electric hybrid option for special customer requests.

The TB216 Hybrid is equipped with an electric motor for use where diesel is too noisy or emissions are not permitted, for example in enclosed construction sites and factory spaces, built-up environments, close to schools and hospitals or internal demolition applications.

The beauty of theTB216 Hybrid is that it offers identical machine performance in both electric and diesel – even the speed of the motor is adjustable in electric mode on the throttle.

Connecting from diesel to electric is simple with the flexible high voltage connection point being positioned at the back of the machine, which allows for 100 per cent emission-free use with full functionality and increased performance.

Brilliant Blade design creates great balance and opearator vision

Everything is so small on this machine with it having only three bottom rollers and no top rollers (just a slide)with a nice little cast drive sprocket and all mounted onto the 450mm-wide rubber tracks (which are optional).

The blade is a beauty and must be the most over-compensated design I have ever seen on a mini digger.

Now, I’m not whinging, it’s just that relative to the length of the machine this blade protrudes out front more than any machine I have encountered. This provides great vision for the operator but more importantly it provides brilliant out front stability for those tough little jobs when you need that bit extra.

With the lifting capacity limited to 155kg, the blade and outstretched track frame are truly a godsend.

Takeuchi have overcome the issue of the blade variation between expanded and retracted and they have done it in a most effective yet simplistic manner.

When the tracks are at optimum width the blade (which is a fixed designed and fabricated width) needs to be manually widened to accommodate the extra track width.

This operation is easily done as Takeuchi have provided a ‘bolt on/ bolt off’ spacer, which can be easily fitted to ensure the blade is the same operating width as the machine.

Hardy and basic open cab


The controls are the same when in electric or diesel mode so re-training the operator is no issue here. Once the key is engaged in electric mode the machine will operate in that mode until the operator converts the machine back to diesel mode. This dual powered mini excavator is uniquely designed in that it sits within the boundaries of that elusive 1m width, however the retractable undercarriage can be expanded to 1.3m for better stability with a flick of a switch.

The side angle positioner is controlled by a small foot operated pedal, which allows the side slew to get about 80 degrees to the left and 60/70 degrees to the right of square.

The dashboard layout is typical of your mini excavator range, but some of the control levers have built in multi-purpose use such as the blade control lever. This acts as a dual purpose control for when the operator is required to expand and retract the track frame of the excavator. By depressing a control lever beside the operator’s right heel it diverts power to the track frame via the forward and reverse travel levers and the track frame can be widened to that 1.3m; reverse the action and the track frame retracts to 980mm in width.

This machine is only available with a canopy enabling the machine to be utilised in a very low level height restricted area. The operating height can be minimised by merely unbolting the canopy. When one considers the retractable undercarriage can be reduced to 980mm in width this little Takka is designed to get into the smallest of areas.

Electric motor slides out to gain access to diesel engine


The tidy little Yanmar Diesel engine runs out at 14.9hp (11.11kW) and the electric motor runs at 14.2hp (10.6kW), however as each motor has its own pump there is no drop off pressure when operating in either diesel or electric.

The variable frequency electric motor, which can operate at 415 volts, can be tethered to an electrical supply source or generator at a distance of almost 400m away.

Servicing of the engine bay is incredibly easy: when you flick the lever lock in the upwards position the electric motor swings out, allowing access to the diesel engine with ease.

Electric engine protector bars built in to frame


Semco’s Graham Murphy said: "The key benefit of the electric drive system is there is no noise and even more importantly, no carbon dioxide emissions. This means there are no toxic fumes and no pollution. And the machine can work relatively silently and indefinitely in a building basement area, which otherwise would need complicated and expensive ventilation systems.

"This will be an attraction for contractors who work on inner city demolitions and basement excavations, which are set to become more important as the value of residential properties increases in high density areas of the major cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Other benefits of electric operation are the removal of the need to have fuel and other volatile materials on the worksite, which may be an issue in some areas."

The TB216H system allows the diesel engine to be used to propel the machine into the job site or to working range and then connected by a capillary line to an on-site 415v three phase power outlet or generator set. The electric component of the machine is a completely independent system whereby the operator switches from diesel to electric and this action redirects the hydraulic flow to be activated by the electric motor.

Expanding Track frame from that elusive 980mm to 1.3m

The electric drive motor is also able to be added as a retrofit and is installed in the area occupied by the counterweight on the model TB 216. The introduction of compact hybrid excavators is of interest to rental companies that are looking for a technological edge over their competitors and the first rental company that may take up the challenge will be seen as providing market leadership.

"We have learned of the potential for hybrid excavators for rental companies from overseas and from some interest expressed by prominent local rental companies. Rental company representatives have been overseas and witnessed this emerging trend. They have seen the technology exhibited in Germany and other models shown at European trade equipment expositions and rental-specific shows.

"Some rental companies see electric hybrid power as an opportunity to differentiate their equipment offering and may wish to use this technology as a strategic benefit for their organisation," Murphy said.

Diesel to electric ... flick the switch and plug it in


Takeuchi have always been leaders in innovation with mini excavators and have developed a reputation of producing a top class product, readily accepted and respected worldwide, engineered and built to the highest of standards with a reliability record second to none.

I have owned a couple of Takeuchis and put them to work in the most unfavourable underground conditions you could ever imagine (one even stayed underground for almost two years) and made so much money from them, so when it comes to a sentimental part of me from another life I almost get a bit teary eyed remembering the path we enjoyed together. Takeuchi – I love ’em.


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