RWTH Project to Foster Electrification of Heavy-Duty Mining Vehicles
The mining and resource extraction industry plays a vital role in the modern world as a source of raw materials for various sectors of the global economy. However, its ecological footprint often leaves something to be desired – not just in terms of local ecosystems affected by strip mining and pollution, but also based on the greenhouse gas emissions of its heavy-duty vehicles and machinery. A new initiative at RWTH Aachen, one of Germany’s leading technical universities, aims to promote the electrification of this industry and help it become more sustainable while also remaining competitive.
The ELMAR project, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economics, is conducted by two RWTH departments, the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies (AMT) and the Institute for Power Electronics and Electrical Drives (ISEA), with the aim of replacing diesel-powered heavy-duty vehicles in Germany’s domestic extractive industry with battery-operated alternatives. The project began in August 2022 and is scheduled to run until the summer of 2025. The government grant will cover about €6 million out of ELMAR’s overall budget of €11 million.
The project is also backed by a consortium of corporate partners including Volvo Group Trucks Central Europe GmbH, Volvo Construction Equipment Germany GmbH, and Volvo Autonomous Solutions AB (commissioned by VCE Germany GmbH), which will provide electric machinery and vehicles as well as automation solutions. Other consortium members include mining companies operating gypsum, sandstone, and sand quarries and other mineral extraction operations, as well as providers of software, cloud services, and autonomous monitoring systems.
Decarbonizing the extractive industries will require more than just replacing diesel-powered equipment with electric substitutes. The project will consider the challenge holistically, also taking into account how the support infrastructure needs to be adapted, as well as changes to operational processes in an industry that, in Germany, includes around 1,600 companies with 2,700 plants and 23,500 employees in gravel, sand, and natural stone production alone.
Dr. Tobias Hartmann of the Institute for Advanced Mining Technologies at RWTH Aachen explained: “Maintaining process reliability in extraction while ensuring security of electrical supply, as well as coupling it to renewable energy sources, we want to demonstrate in representative application scenarios that electrical transport is possible in domestic resource extraction. The holistic approach taking production, energy demand and energy supply aspects into account makes it possible to optimize existing and upcoming operating concepts.”
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