First Mode fuel cell electric vehicle completes trials

The world’s largest zero-emission haul truck, designed and built by First Mode in partnership with Anglo American, has successfully completed its mission to demonstrate the potential of zero emission haulage after one full year of operational trials. The proof-of-concept mining truck is a critical technology in heavy industry’s efforts to reduce its reliance on diesel and other fossil fuels.

In 2019, First Mode partnered with Anglo American to study potential pathways to decarbonising the mining company’s existing fleet of ultra-class haul trucks. The resulting nuGen™ Haulage Solution replaces all diesel components of the haulage ecosystem, including vehicle powerplant, refuelling system, fuel storage infrastructure, and fuel production. The proof-of-concept truck made its debut May 6, 2022 at Anglo American’s Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) mine site in Mogalakwena, South Africa.

The truck’s performance at an active mine site is a testament to the engineering innovation and technical viability of the nuGen™ Haulage Solution. During its year of operation, the truck’s accomplishments included:

Achieved zero-emission haulage. A vehicle this size powered by a combination of hydrogen fuel cells and batteries had never been built before. To-date, the proof-of-concept truck has logged a total of 1245 hours and consistently delivered peak power output of 2 MW.

Introduced into mixed commercial fleet. The truck reached a significant milestone when it completed initial commissioning and operator training, and was introduced into the mine’s commercial fleet operations, including ore and waste haulage activities, alongside diesel vehicles.

Demonstrated performance parity with diesel trucks. Operating under typical mining conditions, the truck demonstrated full payload capacity of 300 t during pit runs, achieving performance parity with its diesel counterparts, while its increased efficiency allowed for high operational speeds with the same power. Pit runs included loading under a 100-t-capacity shovel, climbing a 10% grade fully loaded, and traveling a typical haul route distance of 11 km before successfully dumping loads into the crusher.

Analysed data and optimisations. The software system has captured six terabytes of data that is critical for system optimisation for improved performance, maintainability, reliability, cost, and safety; and informing future design. These learnings are already being integrated into First Mode’s next generation nuGen™ powerplant, which will be deployed at the First Mode Proving Grounds in Centralia, Washington, USA.

First Mode is now focused on scaling and commercialising the nuGen™ Haulage Solution. Next generation powerplants, refueling systems, and infrastructure are being built and tested at First Mode’s engineering and development facilities in Seattle, which include a 45 000 ft2 manufacturing facility slated to come online later this year. These systems will be demonstrated on Komatsu 930E and 830E platforms at First Mode’s Proving Grounds starting in early 2024.

Tags: Anglo America, First Mode, Haul Truck