Charge On Innovation Challenge – new patrons, submissions in progress & completed, plus a relocatable conductor take on trolley assist

The Charge On Innovation Challenge, formally launched on May 13 as a push for industry, OEMs and other stakeholders to come up with workable solutions for faster charging of large surface electric mining trucks and spearheaded by Austmine, is making good interim progress, outlined in an update from Robert Trzebski, Director International Business at Austmine. He says the Challenge is “drawing considerable attention from both mining companies and vendors across a range of industries around the globe” with over 253 vendor companies representing 18 industry sectors from 21 countries having registered for the challenge; and over 55 submissions currently being completed, with 5 submissions received to date.

The Challenge began with three Founding Patrons – BHP, Rio Tinto and Vale – who have now been joined by Roy Hill, Teck, Boliden and Thiess as additional patrons. An awareness campaign was assisted by Supporter organisations including the GMG, MSTA Canada, German Chamber of Commerce in Australia, Canada Mining Innovation Council, Clean Energy Council, Australian Electric Vehicle Association and others. Expressions of Interest remain open until 30 June 2021 and successful submissions will be notified by early August 2021.

A trolley system based on relocatable conductors

On a related note – BHP in September 2021 will be opening up the IP to an “Innovative Trolley Assist” solution outlined in previous patent applications to interested parties as part of potential Charge On Innovation Challenge proposals. On 15 March 2019, BHP Innovation Pty Ltd filed a provisional patent application (AU 2019900861) entitled “Electricity Supply”, and on 6 September 2019 filed a further provisional (AU 2019903293) application with the same title. Claiming priority from these provisional applications, BHP filed an international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application (WO2020/186296), which was published on 24 September 2020. BHP’s patent application for the “Innovative Trolley Assist” (ITA) technology will be allowed to lapse in September 2021. Any vendor wishing to find out more about the ITA technology and utilise the information and any related intellectual property as part of their Charge On Innovation Challenge proposal may do so via written request to BHP.

The background to the invention states: “Haul trucks are used at many mine sites to transport extracted ore along a haul road extending from an extraction site to a processing location. The haul trucks used at such mine sites may need to travel along a haul road that is several kilometres long. The use of fossil fuels, such as diesel, to power such haul trucks when loaded up to several hundred tonnes of ore can be expensive and environmentally damaging. In response to these concerns, haul trucks in mining sites have employed a trolley system having an overhead trolley line suspended between poles to provide electric power to drive the haul trucks along the haul roads. However, such trolley systems are expensive and not easy to relocate. It would be desirable to provide a delivery system for providing electric power to a vehicle suitable for travelling on a roadway at a mine that ameliorates or overcomes disadvantages of known overhead trolley systems. It would also be desirable to provide a delivery system for providing electric power to a vehicle suitable for travelling on a roadway at a mine that ameliorates or overcomes one or more disadvantages or inconveniences of known power delivery systems to vehicles suitable for travelling on a roadway at a mine.”

In more detail, the invention summary states that it “provides a delivery system for providing electric power to a vehicle suitable for travelling on a roadway at a mine, the system comprising: two or more conductors extending along the roadway; a relocatable conductor assembly for supporting the two or more conductors; a contact assembly including two or more contacts movable along, whilst maintaining an electrical connection with, the two or more conductors; and an electric current collector to carry electric power from the contacts to the vehicle, wherein the relocatable conductor assembly supports the conductors above the roadway in a manner which optimises electrical performance characteristics of the delivery system, for example by minimising contact with or build up of extraneous matter and/or providing electrical clearance and creepage distances between the two or more conductors and the roadway.”

One option is for the relocatable conductor assembly to be continuous along its length and to be formed from flexible material. Another is for the relocatable conductor assembly to be segmented along its length into conductor assembly portions. These conductor assembly portions may be rigid. Adjacent conductor assembly portions may be interconnected by joints. “In order to ensure the structural integrity of the relocatable conductor assembly, it may be desirable in some embodiments for the conductor assembly portions to be formed from rigid material. However, in other embodiments of the invention, the relocatable conductor assembly may be continuous along its length and formed from flexible material, such as open or closed cell foam of a specific density. The foam may be pre-cast or cast on site into the desired shape. In use, the continuous conductor assembly would be laid on a roadway and conductors may be subsequently attached to the conductor assembly along its entire length.

The relocatable conductor assembly would isolate the conductors from each other and from the ground. It would include a guide mechanism to guide the contact assembly and bring the contacts into electrical connection with the conductors. The guide mechanism includes a track guide extending along the length of the relocatable conductor assembly. The delivery further comprises one or more standoffs acting to space the relocatable conductor assembly from the roadway. The assembly also includes one or more bevelled or substantially faceted sidewalls oriented to disrupt water flow and a shroud to protect the conductors from water and/or debris.

The delivery system could comprise one or more relocatable intermediary objects having a known location relative the roadway, wherein the relocatable conductor assembly is anchored to the one or more relocatable intermediary objects. In such embodiments, the one or more intermediary objects form a roadside barrier extending along the roadway. Alternatively, the one or more intermediary objects are poles located in or next to the roadway. The electric current collector would include an arm having one or more rigid mechanical linkages. It would be retractable and pivotally connected to the vehicle when in a retracted position. In one or more embodiments, the delivery system further comprises an entry station to guide the contactor assembly into engagement with the relocatable conductor assembly and cause the two or more contacts to make electrical connection with the two or more conductors.