An enormous hydrogen battery-hybrid truck can help cut emissions

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The world’s lightest 510t truck.Anglo American/Flickr

Global mining company Anglo American has unveiled the world’s largest hydrogen-battery hybrid mine haul truck as part of Anglo American’s nuGen™ Zero Emission Haulage Solution (ZEHS), which is an effort to reduce the mining industry’s carbon footprint.

Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive of Anglo American, said, “With diesel emissions from our haul truck fleet accounting for 10-15 percent of our total Scope 1 emissions, this is an important step on our pathway to carbon-neutral operations by 2040. If this pilot is successful, we could remove up to 80 percent of diesel emissions at our open-pit mines by rolling this technology across our global fleet.”

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The truck is designed to operate in everyday mining conditions at Mogalakwena PGMs mine in northeast South Africa. The mine is the world’s largest open-pit platinum group metals mine, and the company aims to replace a fleet of 40 trucks there to save around a million liters of diesel annually.

For the project, Anglo American has worked with some of the leading creative engineering and technology companies, such as ENGIE, First Mode, Ballard, and NPROXX. 

The 2 megawatt (MW) hydrogen-battery hybrid truck generates more power than its diesel predecessor, which consumes 35.3 gallons (134 liters) of diesel per hour with a payload capacity of around 220 metric tons,  and is capable of carrying a 320-ton payload.

The truck has a 1.2 MWh battery pack, and the haul truck system uses multiple fuel cells, which deliver up to 800kW of power, combining to provide a total of 2MW of capacity. The haul truck is also the world’s lightest 510t truck.

The company will also build a hydrogen production, storage, and refueling complex at Mogalakwena that incorporates the largest electrolyzer in Africa and a solar plant to support the operation of the haul truck.  

Is hydrogen better than electric?

Battery-powered electric vehicles are incredibly efficient and can boast a well-to-wheel efficiency of around 70 to 80 percent. A hydrogen fuel cell-powered electric vehicle (FCEV) is positively frugal, with an overall efficiency of about 30 to 35 percent.

The reason for this difference is in how the two models process electricity.

To make a fuel cell-powered electric vehicle as emissions-free as a battery-powered car, you need to electrolyze the water with clean power, such as wind, solar, or nuclear power. But this process is not nearly as efficient as simply charging a battery, as a battery dumps its electrons. 

Battery-powered trucks cost about three times as much as equivalent diesel models, and auto experts estimate hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will probably be even more expensive. But the fuel savings could make them cheaper to own than diesel trucks in the long run.

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