Automotive

45-ton dump truck to become the world's largest electric vehicle

A team of researchers in Swtizerland is converting a Komatsu diesel dumper truck into an all-electric vehicle, set to be the world's largest
A team of researchers in Swtizerland is converting a Komatsu diesel dumper truck into an all-electric vehicle, set to be the world's largest
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A team of researchers in Swtizerland is converting a Komatsu diesel dumper truck into an all-electric vehicle, set to be the world's largest
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A team of researchers in Swtizerland is converting a Komatsu diesel dumper truck into an all-electric vehicle, set to be the world's largest

Digging up materials and hauling them around mining sites is inherently dirty work, but it is set to get a little cleaner on the back of a heavy duty electric vehicle currently under development. Some time in the next few months, the Komatsu HD 605-7 will start carting materials down from a Swiss mountain powered only by a mammoth 4.5-ton battery pack, said to make it the largest electric vehicle in the world.

The vehicle in question is a used truck built by multinational machinery maker Komatsu. Now a team of researchers in Switzerland has gotten its hands on the heavy duty diesel dumper, and set about repurposing it as a prototype for an all-electric mining vehicle that can carry heavy loads in a more environmentally friendly way.

This involved disassembling and reconstructing the truck, removing the diesel engine and making space around the chassis for the huge battery packs, which will consist of 1,440 nickel manganese cobalt cells and boast 700 kWh of storage capacity. According to the team, which includes scientists from Swiss research institute Empa and the Kuhn Group (which sells Komatsu dumper trucks around Europe), this will be the largest battery pack ever fitted to a land vehicle.

When finished, the prototype will be put to the test using its 65-ton loading capacity to haul materials down from a cement works quarry on Switzerland's Chasseral mountain 20 times a day. During each of those trips, regenerative braking will charge up the battery pack by 40 kWh, which the team says will provide more than enough energy to make it back up the hill with electricity leftover to feed back into the grid.

Because this project represents new territory for electric vehicles, the team will be watching closely to see how the truck performs and keeping an eye out for any malfunctions. This will mean running overcharging tests and purposely mistreating some of the nickel manganese cobalt cells with a steel nail to see how the batteries respond.

"Nickel manganese cobalt cells are also the choice of the German automobile industry when it comes to the next generation of electric cars," explains Empa battery expert Marcel Held. "Some batteries start smoking, others burst into flames. The crucial thing in this instance is to make sure the neighboring cells are not damaged by the fire and heat, otherwise there is the risk of a chain reaction."

If all goes to plan, Empa says as many as eight vehicles could enter use at the cement works site, and the prototype could open up new possibilities when it comes to large-scale construction machines.

Source: Empa

10 comments
ErstO
wow, this is fascinating, regardless what government supports or does not support the future, private industry sees the way forward.
highlandboy
110t down, 45t up. Even with losses for: friction; axillary systems; and conversion losses (chemical - electrical - mechanical and back), this is a brilliant source of energy. All this energy would previously been lost as heat from brake and engine braking. If this solution is scalable any mine/quary that has a source higher than the destination can significantly reduce operating costs. As many large machines are allready diesel-electric the issue is one of supply of suitable storage batteries.
Daishi
So it carries loads down the mountain and drives back empty which is why they are expecting to generate enough power going down to make it back up without additional charging input or at least that's the plan. Should be interesting to see data on how closely they come hitting that goal since not too many things have been designed at this scale.
swaan
"said to make it the largest electric vehicle in the world." *Land vehicle - dwarfed by battery electric ferries.
Redmercury
Very clever use of gravity. I love the idea of quarried rock as an energy source. Best of luck to them.
SteveO
This is really cool. But, I do wonder why the battery pack has to be so big since 40 kWh is more than they need for a round trip. Why not cut it in half? Maybe for other applications that doesn't have the long downhill to make sure there is enough available?
Daishi
@SteveO Guessing I would pick being useful in other applications that aren't this clearly advantageous to generating power going down. If they make 25kWh going down and need 40 kWh going up they have a 15kWh per trip deficit they will need the large battery to make up. Another factor is charging speed. 40kWh in the time it takes to go down the hill might be like 20-30 minutes. Pushing it all into a few cells would be higher charging demand but by spreading it out over a larger bank each cell individual cell isn't being pushed too hard. Some battery technologies/chemistries see huge lifespan reductions if cycled too deeply and the larger capacity battery would help there too. The tradeoff is having to deal with the large battery weight to go up the hill each time. I wonder if it would be possible to have the battery broken up into 4 "modules" and just kit out the truck for the application it's being used for to avoid the unnecessary weight where it's overkill.
Wombat56
Tesla may also be using their electric trucks in this way in the near future. They need vehicles to transport their heavy battery packs from a high altitude factory to the vehicle assembly plant at a lower altitude, then drive back empty, uphill .
ljaques
I don't believe this to be possible. It definitely wouldn't be possible to make repeat trips, because the batteries need time to cool between charge and discharge sessions. Both cause heat. I don't see anything with a heavy load being feasible without swapping out battery packs each time, and that includes the long haul trucks we're seeing in the electric arena nowadays. I'm excited to see lots of action in the electric vehicle scene, but until we have yet another battery epiphany or quantum leap, it doesn't seem like enough humans are buying into them. One of the reasons is sheer greed on the part of the auto manufacturers. They lose literal tons of money on each vehicle compared to the massive repair bills associated with ICE powered vehicles, so they charge a whopper for the cars at the first sale. I expect the GigaFactory to help things along, and I'll bet that Elon sells a million Tesla 3s in the 12 months following their large-numbered debut. Watch the video on building a Tesla car. It's fascinating. If there were Mr. Fusion power plants available today, I'd refit my Toyota Tundra with one tomorrow. Until then, maybe I'll build an electric car. The electric bicycle was fun. Does anyone have a spare ten grand I can borrow until the second Tuesday of next week?
swaan
@ljaques What is there to believe? Just open up a Panasonic, LG or Samsung NMC (or NCA) type Li-ion cell datasheet! The battery/cell is operating at a comparably low load. There is very little heat generation and that is easily dealt with a coolant loop. Battery swapping on the other hand is expensive and complicated - it will remain a niche. The large 700kWh battery size serves 2 purposes - lessens stress on individual cells and allows for many runs before battery needs discharging into the grid.
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