The potential for electric drivetrain specialist MEDATech Engineering Services to add another high-profile client to its list of mining company references is high given the developments the Collingwood-based company is currently working on.
Having helped Goldcorp (now Newmont) and several OEMs realise their vision of an all-electric mine at Borden, in Ontario, MEDATech is energising more electrification projects with its ALTDRIVE system.
The company has been developing electrification technology for heavy-duty, off-highway vehicles for about six years. Its current drive train technology, MEDATech says, is capable of being scaled for most heavy haul applications in mining and other industries.
These last six years have seen it help fellow Collingwood resident MacLean Engineering convert underground roof bolters, graders, water trucks and many other production support vehicles for Canada’s underground mining sector. MEDATech has also helped Torex Gold and its Chairman, Fred Stanford, develop the necessary equipment to take the Muckahi all-electric underground mining concept to testing phase. Similarly, it has played a role in Nouveau Monde Graphite’s all-electric open-pit mine vision as part of a Task Force Committee developing studies for the Matawinie project, in Quebec.
Aside from the Muckahi project, the ALTDRIVE system, having been engineered to replace internal combustion engines, has been the driving force behind this work, according to Jeff Taylor, Managing Director of MEDATech Engineering.
The powertrain consist of a hybrid, or completely electric means of propelling the machine with industrial batteries, and can be adapted to heavy equipment such as commercial trucks, tractors, excavators, buses, haul trucks, light rail and – most important in this context – mining vehicles.
ALTDRIVE leverages battery systems from Akasol and XALT, chargers and power electronics from Bel Power Solutions and Dana TM4’s electric motors. The balance of the power electronics, control systems and sub systems, thermo management systems, VMU (a software component critical to the power management of the battery, electric motor charging and regenerative capabilities), and integration engineering is developed by MEDATech.
Taylor says it is the battery chemistry and charging philosophy of the ALTDRIVE technology that differentiates it from others on the market.
“The battery chemistry is really quite advanced and is all based on the future of fast charging,” he told IM. “In this scenario, we don’t want the batteries to be brought down to a high depth of discharge (DOD). We instead want operators to carry out quick, opportunity charging on the go.”
Most of the machines the company has been involved in manufacturing to date have been equipped with 25-100 kW on-board chargers, yet Taylor thinks its new breed of fast-charge battery-electric solutions could eventually require up to 1 MW of power and be charged through an automated system.
Such powerful charging systems may be the future of MEDATech’s ALTDRIVE drivetrain technology, but for now it is focused on leveraging the system for the conversion of a diesel-powered Western Star 4900 XD truck (pictured).
Part of a collaborative project with a Western Star dealer in Quebec where the dealer (Tardif) has donated the truck and MEDATech has provided its materials and engineering expertise, the truck is equipped with a 100 kW capacity on-board charger, 310 kWh of battery capacity, loaded gross vehicle weight of 40,824 kg and 25% more horsepower than its diesel-powered equivalent.
Loaded, the truck can cover 85 km (0% grade) on a single charge (80% DOD). This vehicle is ideal as a pit master unit for short run material moving, road maintenance, water hauling/spraying and snow plowing activities, according to the company. The truck can be on-board charged (2.5 hours) and fast charged (1 hour) during idle periods (at 80% DOD).
The machine will be ready for demonstrations at a gravel pit around 15 km away from the company’s Collingwood headquarters in September, and it has already caught the attention of some major miners.
According to Taylor, Anglo American (Chile), Teck Resources (British Columbia) and Vale (Ontario) are scheduled to see the BEV 4900 XD unit in September at the Collingwood facility. “Each company is looking at an electric machine(s) for their operations,” he said. “They might end up with a different truck, built to their exact specifications, but they want to test this machine out to experience a battery-electric conversion.”
After the 24 t payload truck, the company has eyes on converting a 40 t payload Western Star 6900 XD diesel truck to battery-electric mode.
“This will just be a bigger conversion on a bigger truck,” Taylor explained. “We’ll have extra room on the truck for placing batteries and the extra motor that will be required. It will also be an all-wheel drive vehicle, as opposed to the real-wheel drive of the 4900 XD, which will need some extra engineering.”
While Taylor said work on converting this 40 t machine would not start until the all-electric 4900 XD had been tested, he saw plenty of opportunities for scaling up and down the ALTDRIVE technology to create more customised ‘green’ vehicles for the mining industry.
“If you look at any mine site in Canada, there are five or 10 vehicles you could replace with electric versions,” he said.