Ultra-large battery dump truck charges on the move

Hitachi Ultra-large Battery Dump Truck
The battery-electric trolley dump truck prototype is presently being evaluated for performance at a copper and gold mine in Zambia. Images courtesy Hitachi Construction Machinery

The mining industry, notorious for its environmental impact, is witnessing a significant shift towards sustainability with the introduction of the world’s first ultra-large full battery dump truck. Hitachi Construction Machinery, in collaboration with tech giant ABB and First Quantum Minerals, has launched this innovative vehicle at the Kansanshi copper/gold mine in Zambia. This article delves into the development, capabilities, and potential impact of this pioneering technology.

Development journey

The project commenced in 2021 when Hitachi teamed up with ABB to explore the possibilities of achieving net-zero emissions in mining machinery. The focus was on developing a battery-electric dump truck, an initiative that gained momentum in June of that year. By 2023, First Quantum Minerals joined the effort, agreeing to conduct feasibility trials at their Kansanshi mine, where Hitachi’s trolley trucks were already in use.

Prototype specifications

The battery-electric prototype is based on the Hitachi EH4000 AC-3 model. Key specifications of this truck include:

  • Length: 47 feet (14 meters)
  • Tire size: 29 inches (74 cm)
  • Engine power: 2,500 horsepower, powered by a Cummins engine (replaced by a battery bank developed by ABB Traction)
  • Payload capacity: 243.6 tons (221 tonnes)

The prototype incorporates a combination of dynamic charging through overhead lines and a regenerative braking system, allowing for continuous operation without the need for frequent recharging stops.

Hitachi Ultra-large Battery Dump Truck Overhead Charging Lines
The First Quantum mine in Zambia, which already uses numerous Hitachi diesel-electric trolley trucks, will integrate the battery prototype with its existing overhead charging lines.

Advantages of battery-electric technology

The move to battery-electric vehicles in mining has several compelling advantages. Firstly, it eliminates diesel emissions entirely, which is particularly significant in Zambia, where 92% of the country’s energy needs are met by renewable sources. This shift not only reduces the environmental footprint of mining operations but also aligns with global sustainability goals.

Secondly, the continuous operation enabled by the existing network of overhead charging lines ensures that the truck can maintain its productivity levels without interruptions. The regenerative braking system further enhances efficiency by converting kinetic energy back into electrical energy, which is then used to recharge the batteries.

The truck’s design also benefits from a smaller battery pack than would be required for standalone battery operation. This reduction in battery size translates to lower production costs and maximizes the payload capacity, making the vehicle economically viable.

Hitachi Ultra-large Battery Dump Truck Trolley System
The battery-electric dump truck prototype features a trolley system at the front, enabling continuous operation without the need for recharging stops.

Industry impact

The successful implementation of this technology at the Kansanshi mine is a testament to its practical and operational feasibility. John Gregory from First Quantum Minerals highlighted the operational efficiency of the system, stating that “Battery zero emissions development with little to no impact on payload, production, and fleet size is achievable with Trolley Assist. This system is an operational, practical, and economically feasible solution that will reduce emissions in mining for many years to come.”

This innovation marks a significant milestone in the mining industry’s journey towards sustainable operations. The collaboration between Hitachi, ABB, and First Quantum Minerals showcases how technological advancements can be leveraged to address environmental challenges in traditionally high-emission industries.

Hitachi Ultra-large Battery Dump Truck Engine
The battery-electric trolley dump truck prototype is modeled on Hitachi’s EH4000 AC-3, substituting the Cummins engine with an ABB Traction battery bank.

Pricing information

While specific pricing details for the ultra-large battery dump truck have not been disclosed, the reduction in production costs due to the smaller battery pack and the continuous charging setup suggests a favorable economic outlook. The integration of this technology into existing mining operations is expected to provide long-term cost savings and operational efficiencies.

Conclusion

The introduction of the ultra-large battery dump truck in Zambia represents a major step forward in sustainable mining practices. By eliminating diesel emissions and utilizing renewable energy sources, this innovation aligns with global efforts to reduce the environmental impact of industrial activities. The continuous operation capability, coupled with economic viability, positions this technology as a promising solution for the future of mining.

Source: Hitachi Construction Machinery