Electrification is shaking many industries around the world. From domestic cars to agricultural vehicles, and everything in between, the future is shaped very differently from today.
Another industry that is in the abyss of this revolution is the mining industry. Like other industries, electrification is bound to have a huge impact on the future of mining.
What are the benefits of electrification for the mining industry?
In addition to the obvious benefits of improving air quality and working conditions, electrification promises to lead to productivity improvements and long-term cost savings for any mining company that adopts it.
In fact, electrification of mining equipment fleets also have some significant health and safety benefits. For example, they produce less heat, less noise and vibration and have no harmful exhaust gases. They are all critical considerations in confined spaces – like mines.
This is supported by some interesting innovations in the technology of automatic battery replacement, increased voltage, extend battery lifeor the capability and reliability of the equipment.
One of the key players in this mining revolution is the Swedish technology giant Sandvik. With over 150 years of experience in modern engineering solutions (including for the mining industry), they are in a good position to take the lead in this area as well.
“You don’t have to change the way you harvest. This is a huge change, but really easy to implement. That’s the message we’re trying to get, “explains Brian Huff, vice president of technology and product line, the battery and hybrid business unit for electric vehicles.
“It benefits workers, the operation of the mine, it facilitates ventilation, governments support it, and it supports global environmental issues. You have everything moving in the same direction, ”explains Huff.
Electrification requires a little rethinking of the way mining machines work
Mining industry is unique in many ways, but the most significant is the large size of the machines needed for daily operations. From 60-ton dump trucks to huge loaders, these machines have to work almost constantly.
“The best way to get more power, have a more capable vehicle, faster speeds and climb steeper hills is by increasing the voltage,” Huff said.
In most cases, this may require engineers to reconsider how and why existing mining equipment is designed and built and work to almost rediscover the wheel – in addition to the electric motor and battery that power it.
”[The mining industry] there are unique challenges and that is exactly what we are focusing on. Rethink the whole machine, starting from scratch. Get rid of everything from the diesel engine and see what it really takes to make the best battery-electric machine that can be in the industry, ”explains Kyle Hickey, vice president of engineering, battery business and hybrid electric vehicles. funds in Sandvik.
“One important factor when talking about our BEV (battery-electric vehicles) is the ability to use the latest technologies coming from other markets, such as the automotive and other industrial sectors,” Hickey added.
To this end, the speed of innovation in BEV technologies in the mining industry has become something of an explosion in recent times. The first-generation BEV simply replaced the old diesel engines with fuel and fuel tanks from existing battery-powered machines.
More modern examples are designed from the wheels (or tracks) to the full integration of the battery, which leads to significantly improved performance and efficiency.
One of the most important areas of innovation is the focus on optimizing the charging and energy use of mines to ensure that battery-powered electric machines are at least as productive as their combustion engine predecessors.
This is where technology like automatic battery replacement really comes into play.
“The self-replacing battery system, the clear advantage of this is that it’s the fastest way to get power on board to run the machine,” he says. Mikko Valtee, Applied Research Manager at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.
Such technology promises to significantly reduce the downtime of existing machines when the tank dries.
“It’s really happening after the impact of refueling on infrastructure,” said Brian Huff.
“Replacing the batteries means you can charge the batteries at the same rate as you use up energy by mitigating the peak power you draw from the infrastructure, minimizing the amount of charging required, and really optimizing all your equipment,” Huff added.
Electrification will mean more powerful, more efficient mining machines
Surprisingly, electrification also opens up the possibility of getting more money for your money when it comes to mining equipment. The most efficient electrified electric vehicles can have twice the horsepower of an equivalent diesel engine, often the same size. They are also lighter, which means they can travel faster.
”Even on a [80-mile] The 13-kilometer 15% ramp towing cycle has two shifts throughout this operation, and the truck moves 10% faster than a traditional diesel engine. So really, net, you’re equal or better at performance using the battery, ”says Huff.
So with already available productivity and electrification offering the potential for a cleaner, cooler, zero-emission environment, as well as opportunities to save on ventilation costs, the future looks bright. All this while technological development will only accelerate.
With the improvement of the technology, the interest of the customers in it increases, which further accelerates the pace of innovation.
“Today it is very easy to attract customers on board this electrification dialogue” explains Miko Valti, Applied Research Manager at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.
“We study together. We learn from them and they learn from us, “Valtei added. To this end, the immediate short-term future of mining vehicles seems very clear – more electrification and more digitization.
“Anticipating the mine of the future, I see that it is very electrified and digital,” said Gianni Vilenius, director of technology development and services at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.
“This means that this is a very sustainable operation and with very productive and safe operations.” A view shared by Elina Piquio, vice president, product development and product management, underground drilling at Sandvik.
”Making a difference – advancing the world through engineering, this is a great opportunity to be part of the journey with our customers to bring about more sustainable, more productive and safer mining. ”
In the coming years, companies like Sandvik predict that the pace of electrification will only increase. This should lead, if there is anything in the past, to rapid progress in improvement power, density and reliability, while the batteries will last longer and be smaller.
As the first adopters and quick followers get on board … when someone is considering a fleet, they will stop asking why they have to go with electrified equipment. And I think this turnaround in the approach is coming very fast, “Huff predicted.