To drive heavy trucks, over long distances, in temperatures sometimes dropping to 40° C below zero, is a major challenge when you are transforming into a fossil-free operation. Nobody has ever done anything like it.
From the mine, the rigs carry their 63-tonne loads the 160 kilometres to Pitkäjärvi – our transloading facility to rail. Road transport of ore produces almost 40% of the mine’stotal carbon dioxide emissions – and all transport will by fossil free by 2025.
– We approached the challenge by evaluating several different options, says Lars Wallgren, Logistics Manager.
During February 2021, a pilot project was carried out using a battery driven test vehicle from Volvo Trucks, and chargers from ABB in collaboration with experts from Vattenfall and Wist Last & Buss. The vehicle carried a load of 15 tonnes and was driven in Kaunis Iron’s ore transport cycle in the toughest of winter climates.
What did you learn from the test?
– The vehicle overcame the challenges extremely well, above expectations. The drivers were highly impressed by its performance. There is currently no vehicle able to take the loads we normally ship, but development in this field is going extremely fast. We have been able to test how quick loading can be done and how long a charge lasts. Charging worked well despite extreme cold during the testing period.
Have you learned anything unexpected?
– We must work out a plan for having redundancy in a battery electronic vehicle fleet. What happens in a power outage? We must quite simply put in place a plan B for electrical supply so that we can charge and drive our trucks regardless.
Another insight from the test was that the electric motor does not generate heat like a traditional diesel engine, and therefore the driving cab is not heated in the usual way. We must therefore review how the cab is insulated and heated in severe cold. We also see that routines and work methods for rescue and salvage must be adapted to fit an electrically powered vehicle fleet. The difference is significant compared to the routines and methods used today.
What is the next step in this project?
– Together with Volvo, we are looking at producing test of vehicles that can carry the same load as the rest of our fleet, though exactly what such a rig will look like is not yet clear. We are also working on the design of trailers and superstructures.
Already in 2023, the plan is to have two electrically powered rigs heavier than 74 tonnes rolling together with the rest of the fleet, to learn more and successively develop.