Battery systems to power diesel-free mining haul trucks

2nd June 2023

Battery systems to power diesel-free mining haul trucks

nuGen Truck First Mode’s proof-of-concept truck proved that a combination of batteries and fuel cells is a viable alternative to diesel

Carbon reduction company First Mode purchased 80 Bordline energy storage system (ESS), 2.6 MWh lithium-ion battery systems from electrification and automation corporation ABB in May, to help power the next several zero-emission mining haul trucks it is developing.

“The successful testing and operation of First Mode’s proof-of-concept truck proved that a combination of batteries and fuel cells to power heavy-duty vehicles is a viable alternative to diesel,” says First Mode CEO Julian Soles.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with ABB, which played an instrumental role in the proof-of-concept commissioning, as we scale production of our proprietary nuGen haulage solution and bring additional cost savings to our customers, all while maintaining an industry-leading safety programme,” he says.

The Bordline ESS batteries will be assembled into larger battery packs and used in the construction of hybrid-powered hydrogen and battery powerplants to power ultra-class haul trucks. The batteries will be used both to increase the peak power output available to the truck when ascending a gradient, and to recover energy through regenerative braking when descending.

“The mining environment presents a unique combination of high-power charge and discharge, continuous operation, and significant thermal management challenges that are not found in many other applications,” says First Mode electrical engineering director Krunal Desai.

“Lithium titanate oxide-based cells are an ideal fit for this application, with excellent power performance and inherent safety that meets our operational needs,” he adds.

The next-generation powerplants, refuelling systems, and other related infrastructure are being built and tested at First Mode’s engineering and development facilities in Seattle, Washington, in the US, which include a 4 180.65 m2 manufacturing facility, which is expected to come online later this year.

The systems will be demonstrated at First Mode’s proving grounds, starting in early 2024.

“We are grateful for the continued partnership with First Mode in advancing clean energy solutions for the mining industry. ABB’s Bordline ESSs play a crucial role in enabling sustainable, diesel-free operations in many transport industries,” says ABB traction president Edgar Keller.

“Our battery technology with a high level of inherent safety, enhanced power charging capabilities and long lifetime is the right choice for this demanding application and enables a highly energy efficient mine operation,” says ABB traction ESS head Beat Guggisberg.

ABB first partnered with First Mode in 2019 to supply battery chargers, motors and drives for the world’s first 2 MW hybrid hydrogen fuel cell and battery powerplant, designed and built by First Mode in Seattle, in partnership with diversified mining company Anglo American.

ABB supplied a megawatt-scale direct current-to-direct current converter based on its Bordline-series railway converters, as well as on-site engineering support for the proof-of-concept ultra-class haul truck that debuted May 6, 2022, at Anglo American’s platinum mine at Mogalakwena in Limpopo, South Africa.