Although the initial capital expenditure is more compared to a diesel equivalent, the long-term operating costs of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV’s) are significantly less due to fuel costs, maintenance services and down-time losses.
Recent changes in regulation obligate mining companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve working conditions in underground environments in which they have operations. Conveniently, advances in electric vehicle technology have made converting a fleet of vehicles from diesel driven to electric to achieve these two critical objectives an attractive proposition. This is evident from results of a project which Scharf is currently implementing.
Scharf is currently manufacturing battery electric vehicles (BEV’s), which are to be delivered to a high-profile client a gold and silver mine operator overseas, from its new manufacturing facility in South Africa. The client was exploring possible avenues of cutting greenhouse emissions in underground mining environment and possibly improve working conditions, above and beyond, additional long-term cost savings and increase in equipment productivity.
Scharf’s Managing Director, Shaun Amos, is keen to share with underground mine operators in Africa potential opportunities in the deployment of BEV’s in underground mines. “Typically, a lot of work goes in the design to render features that make the electric vehicle suitable for the underground mining environment. Thereafter, the vehicles undergo rigorous testing prior to being delivered to clients,” he explains.
Meticulous design and rigorous trialling
The BEV’s are designed by experienced mechanical, electrical and hydraulic engineers in accordance with up-to-date ISO mining equipment standards and global best practice. Steel work (chassis, cabin and dump frames) are designed and manufactured using certified materials and constructed by reputable suppliers. All mechanical, hydraulic and electrical components are carefully chosen from only the best suppliers and assembled using stringent quality control procedures.
Proven alternatives to conventional-diesel powered vehicles
Amos observes that BEV’s have emerged as capable alternatives to conventional diesel-powered vehicles in terms of performance and environmental compliance (reducing greenhouse emissions) due to the following features:
- Battery equipment does not emit greenhouse gasses during operation;
- BEV’s have better performance capabilities due to the advantageous torque curves of electrical motors, which allows for improved tractive effort;
- Battery-electrical motor systems are far more energy efficient than fuel/ICE systems, reducing the generated heat within confined mining spaces. This drastically reduces the ventilation requirements;
- BEV’s have less vibration and noise, which improves operator comfort; and
- BEV’s incorporate energy regeneration brake systems to charge the batteries when driving down declines.
Scharf advises mine operators to take a long-term view when considering adopting battery-powered vehicles as part of their fleet in the underground mining environments. “The ventilation cost saving is the largest benefit when migrating to a battery powered fleet. Ever increasing diesel emission regulations result in more expensive mine ventilation requirements, an issue that BEV’s can completely solve.”
From its new facility in South Africa, Scharf is ready to replicate the successful deployment of its BEV’s overseas in underground mines in Africa.
Increased productivity, cost reduction and improved safety
In order to survive in the current mining sector, mines and mining houses need to constantly evolve together with the latest technology to improve productivity, reduce costs and improve mine safety. Excessive conservative mining companies have the large risk of falling behind in terms of productivity and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) requirements.
BEV’s offer the same traditional familiar functionality and flexibility as its conservative diesel counterparts, but with many added benefits. Without a doubt, BEV’s are an avenue which can enable mine operators to be environmentally compliant, safe, and, most importantly, remain profitable businesses.