Sandvik introduces zero-emission battery-electric underground mining truck in Africa

Sandvik has officially introduced its 65-t-capacity zero-emission battery-electric truck, the Sandvik TH665B, in Africa.

The firm launched the machine at Electra Mining Africa in Johannesburg. Speaking at the launch, Sandvik VP Jakob Rutqvist described it as the world’s largest-capacity battery-electric truck for underground mining.

The truck whose biggest markets according to the firm is likely to be Australia and Africa, is set to enable miners to have a fleet of vehicles with zero emissions, enable a greater workload per tonne and engender better power on an incline. Testing on the machine is under way and almost complete in Australia.

Africa was especially suited towards electrification, because diesel was relatively expensive in many countries on the continent and Africa was host to many hot, deep, ventilation-constrained mines, which made the battery electric vehicle (BEV) business case stronger.

Commitments to net zero

Sandvik was at the forefront of electrification in the underground mining industry, poised to meet the needs of many companies’ commitments to net zero over the next several years. The truck, when in operation, generated about 85% less heat than a diesel truck, which helped considerably if the mine was ventilation-constrained. He pointed out that in an average underground mine, 50% to 60% of emissions came from the mobile fleet, with considerable amounts from the primary haulage equipment; therefore, electrifying this made a big difference.

“Sandvik is very proud to be introducing the world’s largest underground truck and very happy to be doing that in Africa. The truck would remove between 1 t and 2 t a day of carbon dioxide (CO2) when in operation; therefore, the impact would be “quite significant,” Rutqvist said.

Sandvik adhered to three main design principles when developing the truck. Firstly, it was aligned to its mandate of “rethinking the machine, not the mine”. The group did not want to introduce technology that requires customers to redesign their operation and undertake considerable infrastructure investments. In this vein, Rutqvist said the truck could be very easily implemented at an existing operation and maintained with existing infrastructure.

Moreover, the machine boasts battery swapping technology. It does not require any big fixed infrastructure to turn on, nor would the operator need to exit the cabin to handle the battery. Rather, the battery swap is fully automated.

There is also a charging setup for this machine, which is 100% mobile and does not require extra ventilation on the mine, with existing capacity generally enough. In terms of the battery swapping technology, one battery is on the machine while it is in operation, while the other is charging, which Rutqvist said reduced the peak stress on the grid.

The second design principle is that the truck needs to be fit for mining. The battery is rugged with safe chemistry, and the machine and battery had been designed to handle the terrain of mining operations. The battery had also been specifically designed for mining and mining needs, rather than repurposing other battery technology. Moreover, both the machine and battery were designed with serviceability in mind, with easy accessibility, to allow these to be serviced on the mine.

“The last design principle was to “expect more. We haven’t compromised anything, we’re not expecting customers to accept lower performance, just because you want to lower emissions. Therefore, it was an extremely high-performing machine, generating about 20% more power than a conventional machine, which translates to about 20% to 30% faster speeds. The machine was also able to slow down and speed up quickly, which meant that the overall movement or flow in the mine increased considerable,” highlighted Rutqvist.

The machine also has technology such as collision avoidance systems and digital prompts. Also, Rutqvist noted that data gleaned from the machine would be analysed by the group’s newly acquired battery analysing company, which would, in future, enable better understanding of elements such as battery performance and life.

“We are not making any compromises from a performance point of view, but we are building this for real application, for real world use,” Rutqvist enthused.

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