When someone mentions electric vehicles, your first thought is likely to be of a Tesla cruising a very modern urban environment with paved roads, boutiques, and plazas.
Yet it is not just the urban city dweller that has their eyes on electric vehicles. Several industries, chief among them mining, see opportunity in this new segment of technology and are looking for ways to incorporate it into their operations.
But is this trust in electric vehicles well-placed or is the mining industry putting all its chips on a fad that will not pay off in the end?
This is what we will find out together below, so strap in.
One thing we can say with certainty is that the “electrification” of mining is real, and it’s going at full speed as new industry partnerships appear to come up with new solutions for more environmentally friendly and efficient mines world-wide.
Electric mining equipment is not exactly a new concept either, as all the way back in the 1910s engineers had already come up with electric drills that worked better for breaking rock faces than most other options.
Today electrification is driven not only by efficiency, but also by a commitment from mining companies to reduce their carbon emissions to a net zero in order to align with the objectives set by the Paris Agreement.
To this end, 30% of the worlds mining companies see the widespread adoption of electric vehicles as the most promising solution, followed by diesel technology improvement (22%), and on-site renewable energy (21%).
The Pros of Electric Vehicles
But why would mining companies defend this position in the first place? The reasons are manyfold:
– Zero Emissions: Electric vehicles produce zero emissions and less heat than diesel vehicles, which is not only better to mitigate damages to the environment, but constitutes an essential security matter in the hot, tight spaces of underground mines.
If keeping your car turned on in your closed garage is dangerous, imagine doing something similar for kilometers underground, if the carbon doesn’t get you, heatstroke will.
– Cheaper Maintenance: Most modern electric vehicles today have a fraction of the mechanical components of their diesel-driven counterparts. This makes maintenance and part replacement much cheaper.
Not to mention the fact that most components for electric vehicles today are made with recycled material, further contributing to the preservation of the planet.
– Renewable Power Source: Unlike oil, electricity is a renewable and potentially an infinite power source, which makes them much more reliable for long term usage.
We know what you’re thinking: “The world’s oil reserves are a long way from being depleted”, but the American petroleum institute tells us that our planet’s oil will be spent somewhere between 2062 and 2094.
Even if electric solutions are taking the mining industry by storm, that does not mean it’s road is not without some obstacles. If electric vehicles are to become the norm in mining, they are to overcome issues like:
– Indirect Pollution: Electric vehicles in themselves are great for the environment, but their benefits are negated if our methods for electricity production remain as pollutant as ever.
So, in order to maximise the environmental benefits, the energy being consumed by electric cars needs to come from sources as green as the vehicles themselves.
– Cost Issues: Even if the maintenance and operation costs for electric vehicles is lesser than its diesel counterparts, many mining companies are driven away by the larger short term investment they present.
Luckily, there has been a steady decline in the cost to acquire these vehicles as technological advancements diminish their production cost. There is also the possibility of rental which greatly diminishes the initial investment.
– Recharge Time: Another challenge that awaits electric vehicles in mining refers to the fact that most modern stationary recharging stations require a really long time to charge vehicles, which poses a severe set back in productivity.
The development of more efficient charging stations is already underway, along with that of more efficient batteries that require less charging sessions. This also raises the issue of what to do when the time comes to discard the batteries.
However, even here we are seeing significant advances coming in the form of technological innovation and a willingness to think outside the box.
For the future of mining to become electrical, there needs to be an industry-wide mindset shift, and for the clear advantages of electrical equipment to become common place.
And we are already witnessing the beginning of this shift in Australia as more and more companies seek electrical solutions for every operational aspect of their activities.
Just recently, on the 13th of May, three of the largest resource companies have launched a global competition for the development of new electric large-scale haul trucks in the effort of reducing mining emissions.
The concern for carbon emissions has already led to the development of specialised mining vehicles that out-perform diesel in every category such as the Bortana BELV (battery electric light vehicle).
It’s not a matter of “if” electric vehicles are going to become the norm for mines, but rather “when”, as technology gets better and better the benefits of their employment are simply too great to ignore.
The widespread adoption of electric mining vehicles is a brave step forward, and its important that companies keep up with these changing times if they want to remain not only relevant but also at the top of their game in productivity.
It then becomes clear that mining companies looking to diminish their carbon emissions while upping their game in productivity and budget efficiency should start looking at electric mining vehicle rental solutions.
As more and more companies begin to see the inherent benefits in taking such a step, we edge closer to a fully electric future, a future which Kuuwa wants to help you build.