Fortescue Metals Group has started testing a battery-electric truck at its operations in the Pilbara of Western Australia as part of its latest decarbonisation efforts.
Having floated the idea of a battery-electric haul truck some three years ago – and started a physical build process 12 months ago – the company is now testing a battery-electric converted MT4400 AC truck at its Christmas Creek iron ore operations, Fortescue confirmed last week.
WAE and Fortescue Future Industries, part of Fortescue’s newly branded Fortescue Energy division, have been spearheading developments on this truck, referred to as the “Roadrunner” (pictured). The 221-t payload vehicle is fitted with a 1.4 MWh battery from WAE. It has already been run through more than 20 hours of dynamic testing that has included, among other things, downhill recharging scenarios, Fortescue said last week.
The vehicle is thought to be the largest battery-electric haul truck running in Pilbara operating conditions.
The converted MT4400 AC is expected to be joined by a 3 MW charger prototype – developed by WAE and a third party – by the end of the year. “This will help us to understand and develop haul truck duty and charging cycles,” Mark Hutchinson, CEO of Fortescue Future Industries, said in a conference call last week.
In June, Fortescue, through WAE, announced the expansion of its battery and electric powertrain production operations in the UK with an additional state-of-the-art facility in Oxfordshire. The facility, which will open in 2024, will focus on the production of a wide range of zero emission products for the off-road sector, including trucks and trains.
Alongside these battery-electric developments, Fortescue said it will have its first “green hydrogen fuel cell haul truck” on site for similar testing next year. This truck is being delivered through the company’s partnership with Liebherr and will be based off a 240-t-payload T 264 haul truck.
In June 2022, Fortescue announced a partnership with Liebherr for the development and supply of green mining haul trucks for integration with the “zero emissions power system” technologies being developed by FFI and WAE. Under the partnership, Fortescue agreed to purchase a fleet of 120 haul trucks from Liebherr; a commitment that represents approximately 45% of the current haul truck fleet at Fortescue’s operations.
In answer to an analyst question last week, Christiaan Heyning, FFI’s Head of Decarbonisation, said: “We are…putting both battery-electric trucks as well as a fuel cell electric trucks on-site this calendar year to do extended testing to figure out the ramp-up efficiency of both battery-electric and fuel cell. We will use those insights to make the final decisions about what our fleet will be.
“As you appreciate, it’s really dependent on whole routes and, therefore, we need to do more testing before we can make up our mind.”
A 100-day “sprint” FFI project focused on converting a legacy 221-t class Terex Unit Rig MT4400 AC electric drive, diesel-powered haul truck to run on a ‘green’ hydrogen 180 kW fuel cell system and a 300 kW/h battery was previously completed and run at Fortescue’s Hazelmere facility in Western Australia.