Mineral producers will keep operating fossil fuel-powered haul trucks for the unforeseeable future, a new publication found.
Electrifying mine heavy vehicle fleets is impractical, inconvenient and unproductive. This is the conclusion researchers reached after examining the latest battery technology’s feasibility for fully loaded trucks.
“While battery technology continues to advance at a rapid rate there are still limitations in terms of the battery size and weight required to support fully loaded haul trucks that may have to travel up steep inclines, as well as the time required to swap or recharge such batteries,” WesTrac’s latest technology and sustainability white paper said.
The company questioned the practicality of installing dual, overhead electrical wires to constantly power machinery.
“Potentially, as battery technology evolves to enable fast-charge options, trolley assist systems may be adequate to recharge onboard batteries but – for now – it is still something in the planning phase,” the report said.
“It is unlikely a mine can power its fleet entirely via overhead trolley systems nor is it likely to be feasible, from a cost-benefit perspective, to build such infrastructure across all haul roads – particularly in open cut mining operations where haul routes in and out of pits change as mines expand or move to follow ore bodies.”
A diesel-powered CAT 793F haul truck requires about 2650 horsepower to move a full load up a hill at approximately 14km/h, for several hours without refuelling.
“The challenge is to come up with a [new] power source that can keep a truck moving in an efficient and productive way,” WesTrac product manager Rafael Price said in a public statement.
“When we go to a new energy source such as a battery technology it is about getting the energy density into that machine, so we can operate in an efficient way.”
Price indicated energy storage technology must significantly improve before it is completely suitable for mine sites.
“It is a matter of finding the most efficient and cost-effective battery energy system that is going to store enough energy, be rechargeable in a timely manner, and not add too much additional weight to the machine,” he said.