HomeBattery metalsElectric-powered earthmoving trucks: A revolution has begun

Electric-powered earthmoving trucks: A revolution has begun

There is a global mandate for all industrial businesses to reduce their carbon footprint – and in coming years this requisite will become government instituted policy.

There are many areas across a mine site that offer the potential to improve their environmental impact, and with the rapid onset of technology, this now includes electric powered heavy-duty trucks, IDEANOMICS head of communications and investor relations TONY SKLAR tells LAURA CORNISH.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 9, 2020
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Nasdaq-listed Ideanomics is a global company focused on facilitating the adoption of commercial electric vehicles and developing next generation financial services and Fintech products.

Its electric vehicle division, Mobile Energy Global, provides group purchasing discounts on commercial electric vehicles, EV batteries and electricity as well as financing and charging solutions. The company is headquartered in New York City and has offices in Beijing and Qingdao, China.

“In essence, our business understands the value of EVs in industrial businesses and through our partnerships with global strategic businesses, are able to offer industry consultative and collaborative connections and solutions on how best to incorporate this technology into operations,” Sklar starts.

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While the concept of a heavy-duty mine truck, powered by an EV battery, seems a difficult concept to believe, particularly in South Africa whose uptake of electric vehicles is somewhat slower than in other first world countries, Sklar says it can be done and highlights that within the industrial space, the world is entering the start of a new revolution in this field.

What may be unknown to most on the African continent is that companies have already been operating and delivering EV batteries for large-scale equipment into the industrial space for about 10 years.

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“China has a 10-year head start on the rest of the world in this area and is producing EV mining trucks that are operating successfully on site. This has been driven by China’s internal mandate to clean up their heavily polluted environmental footprint,” Sklar notes.

Within its role as a consultant of facilitator of securing EV battery powered trucks in the mining (and other large industrial sectors), Ideanomics has partnerships in place with key stakeholders who can effectively deliver EV trucks that are as productively effective as any diesel-driven truck.

“Not only have we partnered with one of the largest EV battery manufacturers in the world, we also have a close working relationship with a China-based company called BeiBen Trucks Group, one of the most well recognised domestic top-class heavy-duty truck manufacturing companies in China which has been specialising in EV large-scale trucks for years.

So how is it done?

The process behind powering a EV-powered car is easy, the battery size needed is feasible to fit inside the car and power it regularly from suitable power stations. This concept cannot however be applied directly to mining – for now.

A heavy-duty mining truck requires a lot of torque to haul hundreds of tons of materials at steep grades across a mine site, and regardless of the size of the battery, it will drain within a certain timeframe.

“For now, operating a truck using a multiple battery system will compensate for this challenge but with the vast levels of research and development being injected into improving this technology, this will ultimately improve in the short-term future.

“These batteries do of course offer further opportunity to power smaller vehicles and pieces of equipment as they move through their lifecycle, enabling a mine site to progressively improve its emissions output in multiple areas,” Sklar points out.

The real proof of success is always in the proverbial pudding however – and Sklar says this work has been done. “With a lot of interest from a mine site in Mongolia, we have successfully conducted numerous tests and trials with heavy-duty EV-powered mining vehicles, successfully,” he highlights.

Ideanomics has also seen some interested stemming out of Canada and the company is hoping to secure penetration on the continent before much longer.

“The mining sector is a great industry for disruption and has the power and motivation to showcase the true value of electric vehicles and in so doing make a significant contribution towards making the planet a cleaner place to live,” he continues.

In its capacity as a facilitator helping companies to adopt EV equipment, Ideanomics understands the challenges that may form part of the process over and above the basic purchase of equipment.

“Financing and battery charging remain two key areas that are inhibiting the uptake of commercial EV adoption. But we play a key role in the entire value chain of this industry and have multiple partners across the globe that we can bring to the discussion table while in our capacity retaining the chain that links all different aspects of this business together – assisting with procurement, working with management to solve encountered challenges, creating an ecosystem to swap batteries, and ensuring maintenance and servicing experts are on site.”

“No doubt, the incorporation of battery-powered EV trucks will still be challenging for emerging markets but with the commitment of the right partners and their understanding of the associated challenges, most can be overcome.

“From an Ideanomics perspective, we’d like to see governments incentivise the adoption of the technology through subsidies and bring their countries technologically forward while creating new jobs and cleaning economies,” Sklar concludes.