Dan Klingberg, president of Joliet, Ill.-based T.J. Lambrecht Construction Co., took control of the world’s first diesel-electric bulldozer and says he will put it to use on a project at O’Hare International Airport next month.

Caterpillar Inc.’s Vice Chairman and CEO-Elect Douglas R. Oberhelman (pictured, at left) on Dec. 22 handed over the keys to the world’s first diesel-electric bulldozer.

Klingsberg took the keys from Caterpillar Inc.’s Vice Chairman and CEO-Elect Douglas R. Oberhelman on Dec. 22 at the manufacturer’s East Peoria tractor plant and the bulldozer was specially gift-wrapped with a bright red bow. The delivery took place among more than 200 Cat employees who had a hand in building the new D7E.

The event is about more than holiday season goodwill because the D7E, now in full production after making a debut inside the tractor plant, marks an important technological advance.

The result of 10 years of research and development and 100 new patents, the D7E prototypes jumped through more than 70,000 hours of lab and field tests. It went on sale this summer. The machine costs about $600,000, a 20% premium over a non-hybrid tractor, but Caterpillar claims it increases fuel efficiency by 25% and pays for itself in about 2.5 years. T.J. Lambrecht tried out a pre-production model this summer for an airfield expansion contract at O’Hare, where the D7E demonstrated fuel savings of 25% to 30%.

“It goes right to the bottom line,” said Klingberg. “It was one of the easiest decisions we every made. This machine is going to save us money.”

The tractor received a Clean Air Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency earlier this year for its innovative hybrid drive, which also cuts carbon emissions.

The machine “is definitely new, emerging technology, and it’s exciting,” says Mike Betz, chief engineer. Oberhelman is slated to replace Jim Owens, Cat’s current chairman and CEO, next July. “I want to leave sustainability as one of my legacies,” he said, adding that the D7E “is proof that sustainability can lower costs and definitely increase revenue.”