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 May 2022, First Mode achieved what many thought impossible with the world's first and world's largest hydrogen-fueled haul truck," said Julian Soles, CEO of First Mode. "The truck's tremendous success is undisputed, having exceeded performance on all significant tests, including travel speed and payload. We are also extremely proud to report zero safety incidents or downtime associated with the program. Our proof-of-concept demonstrates not only the feasibility, but also the urgent need to scale our nuGen Haulage Solution to help the mining industry reduce its reliance on diesel."
In 2019, First Mode partnered with Anglo American to study potential pathways to decarbonizing 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, refueling 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.
Natascha Viljoen, CEO of Anglo American's PGMs business, commented, "We are proud to have played host to this world-first technology. We recognise that replacing our diesel haul trucks with a zero-emission alternative is central to our ability to deliver carbon neutral mining, with the potential to also offer broader operating performance benefits. We look forward to seeing the next generation model in action."
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 1,245 hours and consistently delivered peak power output of two megawatts.
- 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 tonnes 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-tonne-capacity shovel, climbing a 10% grade fully loaded, and traveling a typical haul route distance of 11 kilometers before successfully dumping loads into the crusher.
- Analyzed data and optimizations. The software system has captured six terabytes of data that is critical for system optimization 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 commercializing 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-square-foot 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.