Sandvik’s Artisan Z50 50-tonne truck. Credit: Sandvik
At this point, it’s fair to say that it’s a given that battery electric vehicles make sense for underground mines.
Mines are getting deeper, more expensive and development times to get to ore are rising. BEVs not only save on costs of ventilation and cooling, they also improve worker health and safety by being emissions-free, and generating a fraction of the noise and vibration that traditional diesel machines do.
In addition, electric vehicles have fewer moving parts, reducing maintenance costs dramatically.
Following in the footsteps of early adopters such as Kirkland Lake Gold, which bought its first BEV scoop for its Macassa mine in Ontario in 2012, many more operations are incorporating the technology.
With BEVs now considered proven, adoption is speeding up and suppliers are starting to expand their offering of battery powered electric vehicles (BEVs).
CMJ reached out to BEV suppliers to see what they have been working on and what they’re planning for 2020. We also asked the companies who responded for comments on their plans for the future and emerging BEV trends.
In late 2018, Epiroc released new versions of its BEVs originally introduced in 2016.
In 2019 the company launched a 4-tonne loader for the Chinese market, the Scooptram ST4 Battery. This model will also be more widely available soon. In 2020, the company plans to expand its already large BEV fleet with new equipment launches.
Also in 2019, Epiroc launched a Batteries as a Service (BaaS) business.
With BaaS, Epiroc takes full responsibility for the batteries, from certification to maintenance and offering technology upgrades, using truly a circular business model.
Customers do not buy the batteries, or even lease them, but instead purchase the battery operation service for their electric vehicle. The batteries can be used in Epiroc equipment and with other Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Together with the customer, Epiroc defines a battery plan and the customer pays only for the service provided.
Epiroc says an important difference between BaaS and a typical leasing model is that it will replace batteries with newer versions that have upgraded technology.
The company says the service leaves nothing to chance, meaning no surprises and always predictable running costs.
Statement from Epiroc:
The first natural step for Epiroc is to extend our current BEV offering. The demand for battery driven models is so great that we can hardly keep pace. We also expect component suppliers to start designing components that are made for battery electrical drives, improving performance and efficiency. With so much focus on batteries worldwide, we also expect some great technological advances which will lead to better range and cost reduction.
In terms of the next steps in developing the next-gen underground load and haul fleet, improved cell density and capacity versus size will impact vehicle dimensions but also the fleet management, centralized charging or charging application.
The next step, and the most important one for underground mining, is the mass implementation of zero emission machines on a global scale. By removing the diesel engine and diesel exhausts, the industry will improve safety, health and working conditions for miners and underground operators everywhere.
In 2019, MacLean expanded its battery electric fleet of production support mining vehicles to nine mine sites across three provinces. The company has amassed some 40,000 operating hours since the launch of its EV Series line in 2016. Since then, the company has sold 31 EV units, across five separate model lines. This ‘network effect’ rollout included the delivery of the first-ever BEV Ore Flow unit, a BH3 Blockholer, last year.
MacLean’s original diesel Blockholers are well known: the machine is a secondary reduction drill and charge rig that ensures the ore flows in underground mines.
Whether it’s a low hang-up in a drawpoint, or oversize rock on the ground that’s too large for scoops to handle and too disruptive to get rid of with concussion blasting, it’s the Blockholer that solves the problem and ensures that production isn’t held up. And when it’s not tasked with this mission, it can be put to use for ancillary drilling for mine services.
Now, with the EV upgrade completed and launched in 2019, a BEV option is available and MacLean is closer to its goal of electrifying its entire fleet by 2020.
The unique on-board charging design of MacLean’s fleet eliminates the need for special stationary chargers and battery swapping; driving to a battery swap station or a charge station is non-productive time. MacLean EV units have been adopted by mining customers and contractors alike who are looking for safety and productivity for both workers and the environment.
Statement from MacLean Engineering:
MacLean, as an organization, is extremely nimble and its collaboration with mining companies sets out clear expectations regarding battery design configuration, vehicle duty cycles, and throughput times. This input is used in designing and customizing vehicles accordingly.
With orebodies becoming harder to access, the increasing focus on the elimination of greenhouse gases, and the lower operating costs of BEV equipment, MacLean Engineering is confident that underground mining electric vehicles are gaining acceptance. MacLean is now taking its ‘EV-proven, EV-ready’ message to the mining world – for production support mining vehicles, considering the benefits of incremental BEV introduction to allow for workforce training and supporting operator buy-in, which will pave the way for broader fleet electrification down the road.
In April 2019, Miller Technology of North Bay, Ont., showcased the Relay, its fully electric utility and support vehicle for underground mining and tunnelling, at the Bauma trade show in Munich.
The Relay features an industry first hybrid charging system which allows for both off-board DC fast charging and on-board AC opportunity charging. It also has a dynamic braking system that prevents unwanted accelerations and maximizes range by converting excess kinetic energy into electrical energy.
The Relay is equipped with a powerful mid-ship mounted motor with dual output flanges resulting in impressive full time 4-wheel drive. Miller’s system vastly reduces the number of moving parts, maintenance costs, and downtime. Battery modules used in the energy storage system have passed rigorous highway and marine testing standards to ensure the utmost safety and our modular arrangement makes it possible to adapt the platform to various usage cases.
Operators will appreciate an enhanced driving experience thanks to virtually no noise and minimal vibrations when compared to diesel counterparts. The cockpit is driver focused with touch screen interface capability and display units providing feedback in various forms.
The Relay can be used for many jobs, including transporting workers, materials and supplies.
The company also offers customers an electric conversion for their existing Toyota Landcruiser fleet.
Statement from Miller Technology:
Our plan for 2020 is to introduce a fully electric low-profile grader at MineExpo. The company also has in a 3-ton carrier in the works for 2020.
The target for all of our new gear is decreased charge time by leveraging the most current battery technology. Our Relay, for example, is able to offer a 20-minute charge time.
Finnish-based Normet launched its battery electric SmartDrive product family this spring at Bauma 2019, in Germany.
The SmartDrive family – under development since 2015 – includes concrete sprayers, emulsion units, cassette carriers, concrete transporter, scissor lift and charging trolley and charging cabinet.
The first SmartDrive machine was tested in the deepest mine in Europe, Pyhäsalmi mine in Finland, for over a year before the official launch, to ensure a safe and proven solution for the market. Since the launch in spring 2019, Normet SmartDrives have been in customer operations; in concrete spraying operation on a tunnelling site and in emulsion explosives charging in Pyhäsalmi mine.
The SmartDrive line uses the latest long-life industrial grade lithium-ion battery technology, with fast charging capability and electric motors specifically designed for harsh environments. The batteries have a very long lifetime and a fast charging capability. The onboard charging system requires only 2.5 hours to load the batteries from 0 to 80%; the tunnelling machine needs only 1 hour. The machine can also be charged any time from any typical underground AC socket or in the matter of minutes by fast chargers. The battery is split into modules: in the case of malfunction of a module, it will be isolated and the rest will continue operating, without forcing the machine down somewhere in the mine or tunnel. Also, a very special feature of the electric vehicle are the two electric motors, which are redundant as well.
The optimized tuning of the electric machine´s control system reduces the need to use service braking because the braking force is provided by the electric motors. Most of the time, there is a recuperation of power: during downhill driving the braking energy is stored back into the batteries. With all these optimized features, the new generation of Normet mining and tunnelling equipment requires less maintenance and service, and is much more economical than other engine versions.
Statement from Normet:
Normet has selected a state-of-the-art lithium titanite oxide (LTO) battery technology for its SmartDrive equipment. LTO batteries are known for their high level of safety, greater tolerance of ‘abuse’ and better avoidance of thermal runaway or overheating. Moreover, LTO batteries have a much better low-temperature performance in comparison with other battery technologies.
Besides the battery technology being the safest possible, it allows extremely long lifetime (approximately 20,000 cycles) and fast battery charging, which eliminates the need for expensive battery swapping. This allows the battery pack to be designed so that batteries are well protected from outside damage and impacts.
During 2020, Normet’s SmartDrives will be delivered to the customers globally. Normet is bringing SmartDrive equipment to Canada in spring 2020.
Sandvik released two new BEV products last year – the Artisan A10, a 10-tonne LHD and the Z50, a 50-tonne haul truck. The Z50 builds on the Z40, a 40-tonne truck that was introduced in 2018 and was previously the largest battery-powered truck available. Both products are under Sandvik’s recently acquired Artisan Vehicles division.
Mike Kasaba, managing director of the division, says the company is planning to announce an all-new machine in early 2020 with several features that have never been seen before on underground equipment and are enablers for the efficient mine of the future.
The Artisan A10 is the most capable loader in its size class; while its carry capacity is 10 tonnes, the outer dimensions of the machine are equal to current 7-tonne diesel loaders. The equipment is not constrained by mine ventilation limitations, as Artisan A10 uses the most powerful electric motors available and a patented lithium-iron phosphate battery system. Artisan’s proven battery system is connected with health and environmental benefits, as the loader produces less heat and zero exhaust emissions, reducing CO2 footprint. Further, packed with innovative design, the Artisan A10 delivers shorter cycle times through higher acceleration and faster ramp speeds, while utilizing regenerative braking to capture energy to recharge the battery.
The Artisan A10 is equipped with a unique battery self-swapping system, speeding up time required for battery change, reducing infrastructure requirements and most importantly, improving safety.
The Z50 is the smallest 50-tonne truck on the market. This battery electric haul truck generates twice the peak horsepower and one-eighth of the heat of its diesel equivalent. Artisan has optimized the recharging process, to ensure that the Z50 will outperform its rivals on tonnes hauled per day.
SAHR (spring applied hydraulic release) brakes with electric regeneration allows for the battery to recharge during the braking process by converting mechanical energy into electrical energy. This feature is making the industry rethink their mine designs: In the right environment, a BEV could potentially operate for an entire shift on a single charge. This directly translates to added production and increased revenue for the mine.
Statement from Sandvik:
Our new machines, features and enhancements are all driven by our unmatched number of real production hours on our equipment. We have several advancements in the works right now, all of which are focused on enabling the most productive and efficient underground operations in the world. Not only do we focus on more powerful and productive machines but also on features, systems and infrastructure that improve overall mine productivity and reduce all-in costs.